Kitchens challenges Chief Justice Smith for supreme court seat - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 10/24/08

Kitchens challenges Chief Justice Smith for supreme court seat

By Cheryl Lasseter - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Smith has served on the high court for 16 years, and he's been Chief for the last four. He's proud our state's Supreme Court is one of the most efficient in the country. "In 2004, with four judges running, in three short months we were current and we haven't missed a deadline since then.  People in this room that have clerked at that court, they know exactly what a monumental accomplishment that is," Justice Smith said Friday during a Risk Management and Insurance Society meeting at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum. 

Justice Smith says the biggest challenge facing courtrooms today is electronic filing of documents. The Supreme Court is e-filing, he says, but trial judges need to do it too. He says no one sitting on the Supreme Court should come in with an agenda.

And in the near future, Justice Smith says, we can expect a revision of the jury instruction model. "Most reversals at our level, and court of appeals, occur with jury instructions that are incorrect," he says.  "You can't always blame juries if they get the wrong instructions from lawyers, submitted by the trial judges."

Challenging Smith is attorney and lifelong Crystal Springs resident Jim Kitchens. "I try to find ways to keep my clients out of court. I've done that for 41 years," he says. 

Kitchens says he has a commitment to the rule of law. He wants to see more dignified judicial races, with Supreme Court candidates staying above the fray. And he supports a system of blind contributions for judicial candidates.  "No judge should ever look in the courtroom and say that person gave me money, or that person gave money to my opponent. The judge should never know that," Kitchens says.

Ceola James of Vicksburg is also running for that particular Supreme Court seat. She was not present at the gathering.

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