20 Things You Didn’t Know about The Mississippi Supreme Court

Supreme Court of Mississippi

What do you know about the Mississippi Supreme Court? A lot of people have a tendency to think that virtually every Supreme Court in the United States has operated in much the same way. To some degree, that assumption would be correct. There are many actions that a number of state Supreme Courts do in a similar fashion. In some cases, they even run their day-to-day operations in a similar manner. However, there are differences between the Supreme Courts of each state and those differences are important to know. Sometimes, the facts are more interesting than others and sometimes they are downright bizarre. If you’re curious, here are 20 things you might not know about the Mississippi Supreme Court. You’re sure to find at least a few of them interesting.

1. They are the highest court system in the state

As you probably already know, this is the highest court system in the state. It only stands to reason that a court labeled the Supreme Court is the highest court system within that particular state. As is the case with many other state-sponsored Supreme Courts, this particular court serves the purpose of overseeing the lower court systems throughout the state. As is typically the case, they also help to decide various cases from other courts whenever a conflict arises.

2. The court is more than 200 years old

This particular court is more than two hundred years old, having been formed in 1817. In 2017, they celebrated their 200th anniversary. A lot has obviously changed over the last 225 years, but the end goal remains the same. The court exists for the sole purpose of ensuring that methods are carried out correctly throughout the state and that disputes within the lower court systems are handled within a reasonable amount of time. Without the state Supreme Court, it would be virtually impossible to ensure that these types of operations continue in a timely manner.

3. It used to be known by a different name

It’s interesting to note that there was a time when this particular court system was not known as the Mississippi Supreme Court. Instead, it was known as the High Court of Errors and Appeals. That might seem a bit comical and it definitely seems very dated, but it’s also rather accurate. When you stop and think about the entire reason for the existence of the Mississippi Supreme Court, you realize that is exactly why they were first appointed. It’s also why they still exist today. Their sole reason for existence is to correct errors made by other courts and hear appeals when people feel that they have received an unfair judgment from one of these lower court systems. The name might sound a little bit more formal today, but the mission is essentially the same as it has always been.

4. They don’t have trials

You might also be interested to note that the Mississippi Supreme Court does not participate in trials. They are strictly an appellate court. That means that all cases that come to the court are heard by the justices and then the cases are decided based on the opinions of those justices. That’s why it’s so important that there is always an odd number of justices on this or any other Supreme Court. It ensures that decisions can be made via this process. Otherwise, there would always be the potential for decisions to be based more on party affiliation than anything else. Clearly, that would jeopardize the very integrity of the system.

5. The building is located in the state’s capital

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this particular court is located in the city’s capital, Jackson. As a matter of fact, it’s located in the downtown district, along with a number of other government buildings. This makes it easier for justices to go about their day to day business while simultaneously serving on the Supreme Court.

6. They started out with only three justices

For a while, they only had three justices that served at any one point in time. That’s definitely not many justices to serve an entire state’s Supreme Court at any one given time. Back when they were first getting started, this might have been more feasible because there obviously wouldn’t have been as many cases when the population wasn’t as high. These days, it would be almost impossible for them to decide cases with only three justices.

7. They used to have an interested way of rotating justices

They’re also known for having a rather interesting way of making sure that no single justice serves for too long. Back when they only had three, they decided that one of them would be rotated out every two years, the other every four years and the third every six years. As a result, it simply depended on which slot you ended up filling how long your term was likely to be.

8. They have nine justices

As the population of the state has increased, so too have the number of justices serving on the Supreme Court. Eventually, they decided to bump the number up from three to nine. That means that they have more justices than most of the other states within the country, as the overwhelming majority of them typically have seven. There are a few other interesting points about the justices within the Mississippi Supreme Court, as will be discussed later on.

9. They also have two chief justices

As previously mentioned, it can sometimes be interesting when it comes to the way that they handle things with the Mississippi Supreme Court. As such, they have two chief justices. This is rather unique because most state Supreme Courts only have one. Typically, it is up to the chief justice to make the decisions when the other justices can’t agree on a particular case. Here, there are two of them that are essentially controlling the rest of the state’s Supreme Court and making the decisions. Obviously, that leaves a lot of people wondering what happens when these two individuals disagree on a particular case. You’ll be glad to know that the point will be discussed in a few paragraphs.

10. Sometimes they have a special election

There are times when a special election is needed. If a justice passes away while serving a term, a special election may be held. However, that isn’t always the case. In order for a special election to be held, there has to be more than half of that particular individual’s term left to serve. Otherwise, things are handled in an entirely different manner, as you’ll see in the next paragraph.

11. At other times, they appoint justices

If a justice passes away and more than half of their term has already been completed, there is no special election held. Instead, someone else is appointed to the position from one of the lower court systems within the state. That individual will then serve the remainder of the original justice’s term.

12. Seniority is decided in a straightforward manner

In the event that both chief justices have polarizing views on a particular case, seniority is decided in a fairly straightforward manner. The individual who has served the longest amount of time is the one who has seniority. If the two chief justices can’t come to some type of compromise on a case, then the decision eventually goes to the chief justice who has been there the longest.

13. All of the justices are elected

It shouldn’t really come as any surprise, but considering the fact that Supreme Courts aren’t operated the exact same way in every state, it’s worth noting that those in the Mississippi Supreme Court are elected, not appointed. Clearly, this isn’t always the case so it is important to note the difference here. Otherwise, it can cause a great deal of confusion about the way that this particular court operates from the onset.

14. The idea is to keep things bipartisan

Obviously, the idea here is to ensure that things remain as fair as possible. By keeping things bipartisan, it’s easier to ensure that decisions made by the justices are indeed made as fairly as possible as opposed to allowing those decisions to be made based on party alone. That being said, this isn’t quite how things always go. Since justices are elected and not appointed, there is sometimes some confusion over the number of Democrats versus the number of Republicans serving at any particular time. This is especially true if someone has been appointed or a special election has been held due to extenuating circumstances.

15. They are considered the court of last resort

It’s worth noting that there are nine different court systems within the state of Mississippi. Out of those nine court systems, the Supreme Court is only one of those. They are typically considered the court of last resort because the overwhelming majority of cases will be dealt with in one of the lower court systems long before it ever reaches the Supreme Court. In cases where that doesn’t happen, it’s because it’s a case involving capital punishment or something similar. Otherwise, the state Supreme Court does not step in unless all other options have already been exhausted.

16. If someone challenges the Constitution, the case is reviewed here

In addition to hearing capital punishment cases, the Supreme Court will also review cases when someone challenges the Constitution. As a direct result, some cases automatically find their way to the Supreme Court due to their very nature. This is something that has occurred more and more in recent years. As a result, the court system is hearing more of these types of cases each and every year.

17. Sometimes they decide cases based on popularity

Oddly enough, they sometimes review a case based on that particular case’s popularity within the public. If a case has gotten a great deal of media attention and there is a lot of information about it, it sometimes goes to the state supreme court because there is an interest in ensuring the integrity of the case itself. Of course, that isn’t always how it goes, either. There are many times when a case receives a great deal of media attention and is held in a lower court system, only to be reviewed in the Supreme Court later on.

18. They’ve also decided cases related to the pandemic

You might be surprised to know that they’ve also decided cases related to the pandemic, something that has been just as unprecedented for them as it has been for everyone else. As a matter of fact, it was only recently that the Supreme Court decided that it would be unlawful for safety precautions related directly to cleaning for Covid-19 be removed from all court systems within the state. In other words, the Supreme Court decided that they want special cleaning related to controlling the pandemic to continue until such time that they deem it appropriate for those efforts to be stopped.

19. The court is divided into regions

One of the things that makes this particular state’s Supreme Court fairly unique is that it is divided into regions, a north and a south region. The thought process is that doing so would make it easier for justices to make decisions in a more timely fashion. However, many people consider this to be an outdated approach, as it doesn’t really achieve any practical purpose. You’ll see why in the next paragraph.

20. All justices are involved in deciding cases, regardless of region

Regardless of which region of particular justice is located in, they all have to weigh in on every case that is reviewed. That more or less means that it doesn’t help anything to have regions for the purposes of hearing cases more quickly. Nevertheless, this particular issue has not been updated in the court system. Furthermore, there is no clear indication of when or even if it ever will be.

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