This November voters will elect county, circuit and chancery judges, as well as justices on the Court of Appeals and one for the Supreme Court. This election renders the debate over whether we should elect or appoint judges largely moot. Most judges across the state face no opposition and effectively won on qualifying day.

I count only six contested races for the 48 chancery court posts and seventeen elections for the 51 circuit court posts. In other words, more than seventy-five percent of circuit and chancery court judges will take the bench this year without opposition. Certainly, many of the remaining races will see heated, active, perhaps even controversial campaigning.

Likely the highest profile judicial race this year pits trial lawyer Kelly Mims against incumbent Court of Appeals Justice Donna Barnes in Northeast Mississippi. Expect higher than normal voter turnout for this race with Republicans seeking to oust and Democrats seeking to defend Congressman Travis Childers in much of the same area. May's campaign finance reports list the campaigns of Mims ($7912) and Barnes ($8148) basically tied in cash-on-hand.

Governor Barbour appointed Barnes, of Tupelo, to the Court in 2004. She was reelected without opposition in 2006. Previously she practiced law with Mitchell, McNutt and Sams.

Formerly the Lee County Democratic Party Chairman, Mims was the 2003 Democratic nominee for House District 17, defeated by Republican Brian Aldridge 56 to 44 percent. Mims has already entertained political observers with videos on his law firm's web page instructing viewers how not to get arrested.

Mim's firm's web site says, "Sometimes life throws us a curveball and when we least expect it we end up in circumstances that are beyond our control...When your [sic] in front of the Criminal Justice System, the odds are against you. The DA, the Police and the Court can all seem to be working against you. You need an experienced legal team to fight for your rights and to help you navigate the dark waters." Perhaps as a judge, Mims would be partial to arguments of existential predeterminism or casting blame toward sensitive dependence on initial conditions. I think most voters still believe individuals should be responsible for their own actions instead of blaming life or the criminal justice system.

Another race for the Court of Appeals features incumbent Tyree Irving and challenger Ceola James in the Delta. Irving's latest campaign finance report lists $5716 cash-on-hand; no report for James.

Irving, of Greenwood, first won the seat in 1998 by defeating Canton attorney Jim Herring who had been appointed by Governor Kirk Fordice. Irving won with 53 percent and was unopposed for reelection in 2002. This April, the Greenwood Commonwealth reported Irving told the Greenwood Voters League, "It's important that litigants who come before our court feel like the judges who are hearing their case can understand them - know where they come from. It's not difficult for me to understand the concerns of rich folk, but I think it's difficult for rich folk to really understand the concerns of poor folk. If you've never been poor, I don't think you can understand it. Being fair and impartial is also about understanding what that person's life experience has been about."

James of Vicksburg served one term as a chancery court judge and subsequently ran for the Supreme Court in 2004 (5.3 percent of the vote in a four person race) and again in 2008 (10 percent of the vote in a three person race). She helped lead the 1972 civil rights boycott in Vicksburg.

The Mississippi Supreme Court rebuked James in 2005 for a violation of Rule 1.12 of the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct. James presided over a mother's petition for child protection, barring the father from unsupervised visits. Later, after leaving the bench and after the parties divorced, James tried to represent the mother in seeking modification of the divorce decree.

Three other Court of Appeals justices on the ballot this year face no opposition to their reelection. Two years ago, there were three Court of Appeals justices up for reelection; all won reelection without opposition as well.

On the Mississippi Supreme Court, Justice Jess Dickinson is on the ballot without opposition to stand for reelection. Eight years ago, he defeated incumbent justice Chuck McRae and Chancery Judge Larry Buffington in a three-man race without a run-off when Dickinson brought in 52.5 percent of the vote.

While quiet on the judicial front this year, that may change in two years when four seats on the Supreme Court are up: Justice George Carlson in the Northern District, Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. and Justice James Graves in the Central District, and Justice Michael Randolph in the Southern District. Mississippi's 2012 ballot will also feature the presidential election and the regular U.S. Senate election for incumbent Roger Wicker.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at