Justice system must be beyond reproach

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Is it proper for the state’s highest court, where dignity anddecorum are a very vital element of the respect our judicial systemmust maintain, that relations between justices have degenerated tochildhood name calling?

Five Mississippi Supreme Court justices, including Chief JusticeEd Pittman, have filed a complaint against outgoing Justice ChuckMcRae for what they claim are his personal threats, misconduct andstated determination to disrupt the court during his last months inoffice.

The flamboyant and controversial McRae, after 13 years on thebench, lost a re-election bid last fall when he placed last in athree-man race. McRae gained notoriety across the state by his twoDUI arrests, his Harley-Davidson motorcycle escapades, and mostrecently a Forbes magazine article about McRae and Mississippi’slegal climate titled “Buying Justice.” His connections to triallawyers across the state have brought further criticism by thestate’s business and medical community.

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A hearing by the Commission on Judicial Performance will decideif the complaint warrants calling a tribunal to determine if McRaeshould step down before his term expires at the end of theyear.

We have long held that our system of picking judges to thestate’s highest court is poor. And that while Mississippi votersprefer elections to appointments, the events centered aroundJustice McRae prove that we must find a new solution.

Our judicial system must be beyond reproach. Electing judges whoare then beholden to special interest group such as trial lawyersor even business groups is not conducive to building the publictrust.

Of course, an appointive system is not perfect either, butsomething must be done if our citizenry is to respect our state’shighest court.