Governor Barbour’s appointment yesterday of Court of Appeals Chief Judge Leslie King to replace Justice James Graves on the Supreme Court was anticlimactic. It’s a bit like hiring an assistant coach on your current staff to replace your head football coach. It may be the best move, but it’s not very exciting for the fan base.

Many people predicted King would get the position from the day that President Obama appointed Justice Graves to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Gov. Barbour admitted that King was the only candidate who he considered. It is a safe pick and a smart pick.

So who does Barbour appoint to replace King on the Court of Appeals? This is more interesting because there is no one obvious candidate. The people who always predicted King would get promoted to the Supreme Court believe that Barbour will appoint a current African-American state court judge. But there are four judges in Hinds County alone who fit this profile even if you only consider circuit and chancery judges. And the district is much bigger than just Hinds County.

Judge Denise Owens is a name I hear a lot and would be a popular choice. But unlike with the Supreme Court position, Barbour promises to run this pick through his judicial advisory committee. That would seem to make it a more wide open race. And a more interesting appointment from the fans’ point of view.

  • 75/25

    Judge King is an excellent judge and was a smart choice for Barbour. He’s also fairly conservative, and in any event, significantly more conservative than Judge Graves. So much for parity in the high court. Kitchens now stands alone on the left side of the portrait.
    I would hate to see Denise Owens get the nod to fill King’s spot at the COA. Sadly, the reason for this is that she’s too qualified. IMHO, Judge Owens is easily the fairest and most consistent chancellor in Hinds County. To remove her from that position would be a travesty.
    The smart money for Barbour would be to appoint one of the Hinds County circuit judges that commit clear error every time they take the bench, resulting in an embarassing amount of reversals and a tremendous waste of judicial resources and private money. Sending one of them to High Street would signifantly dilute their effect (and actually bring a little more balance to the COA, which is already much more balanced that the MSSct. Their first two years on the bench would be pretty easy, because they would have to recuse on any cases over which they presided at the trial court level, which by my rough estimation, based upon the last year or so of handdowns, constitute roughly 35% of the appellate docket.
    I know, I know. “We need those judges on the bench to scare the piss out of insurers and defendants and justify big fees and big settlements.” But the madness has to stop at some point, folks. Yerger’s gone and has, by all accounts, been replaced by about as fair a judge as anyone could have hoped for. This means that the scale in Hinds County is tipping at about a 75 degree angle now.

  • Anderson

    “He’s also fairly conservative”
    Um, okay. Moreso than Irving or Kitchens, but I’m not giving much more than that.
    “The smart money for Barbour would be to appoint one of the Hinds County circuit judges that commit clear error every time they take the bench, resulting in an embarassing amount of reversals and a tremendous waste of judicial resources and private money. Sending one of them to High Street would signifantly dilute their effect”
    I had actually thought along those lines myself. (Tho do you expect Gowan to be plaintiff-friendly?)
    Owens I would really rather have seen at the MSSC in Graves’s seat. They need another chancellor up there (they need a *real* chancellor, some would say).

  • Jose

    **So who does Barbour appoint to replace King on the Court of Appeals? This is more interesting because there is no one obvious candidate.**
    The word from GOTSOM’s office (that’s pronounced as “got somes” — and an acronym for Governor Of The State Of Mississippi’s) office is that YOU are being considered for the position. You’re not black, so that’s a definite strike against you. But stand by the phones tomorrow. That call from HB may be coming.

  • rod garrison

    Someone needs to check the facts on the Judge Owens to the Court of appeals position. She doesn’t live in the King’s district. That is the delta.