Probe adds new fuel to debate on judges

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 28, 2003

Mississippi Supreme Court records are now becoming part of theongoing probe into allegations of bribery and payoffs of threestate judges. The investigation is part the U.S. Attorney’s officeinvestigation to determine if prominent trial lawyers paid off bankloans for the judges in exchange for favorable treatment incourt.

The year-long investigation involves three judges from HarrisonCounty — Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., former HarrisonCounty Circuit Judge John Whitfield and Former Harrison ChanceryJudge Wes Teel. All three offices are elected by popular vote.

It will take time for this investigation to play out and,hopefully, it will find that all three individuals are innocent ofthe charges. Despite the outcome, however, the damage will havebeen done with a public already skeptical of the state’s judicialsystem.

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Mississippian’s love to elect their judges, and despite attemptsin the past to change the system, we continue to elect statejudges. Without a doubt, an appointive system is not a perfectsituation and not without its own brand of politics, but electingjudges is expensive — and with the money come strings.

As Mississippi toils with this investigation in the comingmonths, hopefully, one of the results will be a meaningful debateon how judges in Mississippi are selected.