Judicial Campaign Reforms – Part 3

I think it’s time to end a judicial candidate’s right to speak to the venire.

Mississippi Code Annotated section 23-15-973 provides that “[i]t shall be the duty of the judges of the circuit court to give a reasonable time and opportunity to the candidates for the office of judge of the Supreme Court, judges of the Court of Appeals, circuit judge and chancellor to address the people during court terms. . . .”

This provision has outlived its usefulness. There are many ways that voters may hear from judicial candidates. The members of the venire have been summoned to appear in court under penalty of law. Their time should be respected, and they should not be required to hear political speeches.

During this election, one candidate made some remarks before a venire that led to the court having to grant a criminal defendant’s motion to strike the venire.  This resulted in  a delay of justice for both the accused and the victim.  This should never be allowed to happen again.

I attended many an opportunity to speak to a venire.  There were other abuses.  Some candidates spoke longer than others.  Several times, the work of the circuit court and the venire were delayed up to forty-five minutes or an hour to allow candidates to speak. This is an unwarranted intrusion on the venire.

The Code of Judicial Conduct should include restrictions that ensure no future abuses.

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