The Clarion-Ledger reports that Judge Robert Evans’ successor will be chosen by a write-in vote. Judge Evans was the only candidate who qualified to run. He died of cancer after the sign-up deadline passed. The district covers Jasper, Smith, Simpson and Covington counties.
Circuit clerks in the district are not enthused about the upcoming election:
"I see no good coming out of it," Smith County Circuit Clerk Anthony Grayson said. "I’m not looking forward to it. With just 60 days to go, we have to try to educate the voters about it."
Grayson said he wasn’t consulted about the process prior to the announcement.
"I’m really disappointed (in the process selected)," Grayson said. "The people of the district deserve better. … I sort of thought someone would be appointed."
In addition to expecting turmoil, Grayson said he wonders about names of individuals being written on ballots who are not qualified to serve as circuit judge. Also, he worries about names possibly being misspelled.
Not to mention all the votes people with names like Harry Crotch will get.
A circuit court judge is a vitally important position in Mississippi’s legal system. Circuit court judges can preside over a capital murder trial one week and a multi-million dollar civil case the next week.
My personal preference is for all circuit court judges to be appointed. I believe that the overall quality of the judiciary would be better with appointed judges. I also believe that politics would play less of a part in the decision making.
But even if you prefer an elected judiciary, a write-in election is a bad idea. Write-in elections are for positions like class favorite in junior high schools. A write-in election for judge in a four county district will likely lead to many lawyers splitting the votes. If that’s the case, there will probably be a run-off between two lawyers who collectively did not accumulate 50% of the vote. Even worse, neither may want the position.
Also, will lawyers raise money and campaign when the election will be decided by such a crap-shoot mechanism? And that’s assuming that they can raise money when they did not qualify to run.
Hopefully, someone who will be a good judge will win. But right now that would seem to require luck more than anything else.