Meridian Star

Local News

June 11, 2008

Chief Justice speaks to business-people in Meridian

Smith running on experience, efficiency

Justice James W. Smith, Jr., the chief justice of the state of Mississippi, was in Meridian Tuesday to speak to graduates of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation's Leadership Lauderdale program.

The graduation took place at EMBDC's Business Before Hours event at MSU-Meridian's Kahlmus Auditorium.

Appropriately, much of Smith's speech to the Leadership grads centered on the subject of leadership and on attaining success through leadership.

"If you will go where others do not tread," Smith told the graduates, "they will follow."

Smith did not refer to the upcoming Mississippi Supreme Court elections, which will be held Nov. 4, and in which he will face two opponents — Crystal Springs attorney Jim Kitchens, and Ceola James, a former judge for the Vicksburg Chancery Court. Rather, Smith stuck more or less to the subjects at hand during his speech to the graduates. He did manage, however, to relate some of his judicial accomplishments to the subject at hand.

"I didn't write 800 majority opinions for nothing," he said, "I had to convince four more judges I was right over the last 15 years," preaching the value of persuasion to graduates while at the same time plugging himself as an experienced and effective adjudicator.

Smith is currently serving his 16th year on the Supreme Court, and his fourth year as chief justice. In Mississippi, the chief justice is the Supreme Court justice with the most seniority.

Before joining the Supreme Court, Smith served as Rankin County judge for 10 years, and has also been a Youth Court judge, a District Attorney, and a prosecutor. Smith has also been a teacher and a middle school principal, and has served in the U.S. Army.

During his address in Meridian, Smith repeatedly spoke of his faith, referring to the Bible and mentioning his own prayer habits.

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