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Lawyer Taylor picked for circuit bench

Gov. Haley Barbour named Brookhaven attorney Michael Taylor 14thDistrict circuit court judge Thursday.

Taylor, 41, will replace Judge Keith Starrett, who began hisduties as a federal court judge earlier this year. Starrett hadbeen judge of the district that includes Lincoln, Pike and Walthallcounties since 1992.

“I’m honored to be given this opportunity and look forward toworking Judge (Mike) Smith,” Taylor said Thursday, adding thatSmith and Starrett had made a tremendous impact on the district. “Ihope to be able to continue the good things they’ve done and thegood work they’ve started.”

Taylor has practiced law for 18 years and received his lawdegree from the University of Mississippi. He was chosen from among10 applicants following a review by the state Judicial AppointmentsAdvisory Committee and Barbour.

“The Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee has worked hard toensure that a qualified, conscientious, and dedicated person fillsthis important post,” Barbour said in a statement announcing theappointment. “Mike is a man of integrity and high moral character.I know that he will be an asset to Mississippi’s judicialsystem.”

In addition to his law practice, Taylor has served as youthcourt referee for more than 10 years in Lincoln County ChanceryCourt. Taylor said his experience there and other legal work havehelped prepare him to be judge.

“The part of law practice I enjoy most is being in court,”Taylor said. “I’ve had the privilege to work for several judges andI’ve always enjoyed being a part of the judiciary.”

There are approximately two years remaining in the unexpiredterm. Taylor indicated that he was leaning toward seeking electionto the judicial post at the appropriate time.

“The first thing I have to do it learn the job, but I hope to beable to continue to serve,” Taylor said.

Taylor mentioned potential legislative measures that couldimpact the judicial landscape of the district. He cited bills thatcould change the way judges are elected and change court districtmakeup through realignment of counties.

With his appointment, Taylor becomes the first circuit courtjudge from Lincoln County in more than 40 years.

“I’m honored to be the first Lincoln Countian to serve ascircuit court judge in many years,” Taylor said.

Judge Thomas Perkins Brady, who later became a state SupremeCourt justice, was the last area circuit court judge from LincolnCounty, serving from 1950-63. Coincidentally, Brady is thegrandfather of Taylor’s wife, Becky.

Taylor planned to meet Thursday afternoon with Judge Smith todiscuss plans for his swearing-in and work schedule. The new judgeexpected to be sworn in and begin his new duties next week.

A new grand jury is scheduled to be empaneled Monday in WalthallCounty, and Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins saidarraignments from a recent grand jury term are scheduled for Mondayin Brookhaven. She was pleased to see Taylor appointed as districtjudge.

“We’re excited and we’re anxious to work with him,” Watkinssaid. “We’re ready to get things kicked off.”

Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop said his office worked closelywith Taylor while he was youth court referee.

“We’re very happy for Mike and we think he’s going to make agood circuit court judge,” Bishop said.

Fifteenth District Chancery Court Judge Ed Patten expressedsimilar sentiments. He said he had known Taylor for many years asyouth court referee and he had all the capabilities needed to be acircuit court judge.

“The experience he has gained here will certainly carry over andallow him to be a good and fair judge,” Patten said.