Consider Judge Lackey: How Mississippians choose the judiciary

Thank God for men like Judge Henry Lackey! Lackey has served as a circuit judge in the 3rd Judicial District of Mississippi for years. He has stood for election numerous times and has never been defeated. Lackey is as unpretentious as he is intellectual, and as honest as he is reliable.

For those reasons, it did not surprise members of the bench and bar who knew him well that he did what a judge (or member of the bar, for that matter) is supposed to do: He reported alleged misconduct.

If Lackey is the poster child for the elected state judge in Mississippi, then it would follow that judicial elections result in the selection of the cream of the crop – the imminently qualified, the imminently ethical, the imminently fair. However, there is fear in the bar that Lackey may be an anomaly, the exception to the rule. There is fear in the bar that not all state judges may respond as Lackey did.

This brings us to what perhaps the Legislature should be thinking: “Is Mississippi’s method of judicial selection – the non-partisan election – the method of choice?”

The allegations made against Timothy Balducci and Dickie Scruggs are unproven at this point. Nevertheless, these allegations have generated conversation. While the anti-trial lawyer lobby will point to the fact that Scruggs is one of our state’s most facile trial lawyers, the fact is that all elected judges can be susceptible to the influence of those who may contribute financially, or otherwise, to their election and re-election campaigns – be they trial lawyers, members of the defense bar, trade associations, or political action committees.

Clarion Ledger
2/3/8