Voters send strong message
Nov. 7, 2002
Mississippi voters made excellent decisions on Tuesday, decisions that ought to make state politicians sit up and take notice.
For example, the margin of victory for U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering he received 64 percent of the vote and carried 21 of 28 counties in the new 3rd Congressional District was unexpectedly large.
Voters in a Mississippi Court of Appeals district made Meridian native Kenny Griffis their solid choice over Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's appointee, Jim Brantley of Brandon. And, while his current term won't end until January 2004, South Mississippi voters said no to extending the troubled tenure of Supreme Court justice Chuck McRae. Gulfport attorney Jess Dickinson was elected to replace him.
Elsewhere, Judge Roger McMillan, a conservative member of the Court of Appeals from North Mississippi, easily won re-election despite strong organized opposition from the trial lawyers lobby.
One common denominator in these races was the issue of civil justice reform, both at the federal and state levels. Pickering supports reasonable caps on damage awards; his opponent, Rep. Ronnie Shows, did not.
Trial lawyers staked and stoked the financial fires of their favorites in the judicial races, and they lost. The trial lawyers' lobby took a big hit on Tuesday as voters sent the message that they are sick and tired of frivolous lawsuits and outlandish damage awards. They are sick and tired of lawyers feeding in the trough of civil justice and purporting to represent the little guy while they drive home in their luxury cars and fly their jets and cruise their yachts to exotic destinations most Mississippians can hardly imagine.
Two of the trial lawyers' darlings in the Mississippi judiciary, McRae and Brantley both former presidents of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association went down to defeat. There's a message here.
And then trial lawyers aggressively supported a proposed constitutional amendment that would have extended the terms of circuit and chancery judges from four to six years. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the idea, thinking, perhaps, that the closer our elected judges are to the electorate the better.
That handful of powerful state legislators which has been toting the load for the trial lawyers lobby in the current special session should listen up. The fundamental flaw in the trial lawyers' strategy has been exposed they're just plain wrong on the issue of civil justice reform, and voters have noticed.
Two more Musgrove state judicial appointees will face voters for the first time in 2004, a presidential election year in which Mississippi voters are likely to vote in large numbers for President Bush's reelection. In 2004, voters will have an opportunity to intensify their efforts to take back the appellate courts.
Is this a popular uprising, or just another little blip on the political radar screen? The results of election day 2002 speak for themselves.