Mississippi Supreme Court candidate looks to bring diversity

Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ A challenger in a Mississippi Supreme Court election said Monday that she would bring diversity of perspective and experience to a court that has had only four women among the 137 justices who have served during the state’s history.

Judge Latrice Westbrooks of Lexington is seeking to become the first Black woman to serve on Mississippi’s nine-member high court. She was elected in 2016 to serve on the 10-member Mississippi Court of Appeals. She previously worked at different times as an assistant district attorney, public defender and municipal judge.

Westbrooks is challenging Justice Kenny Griffis of Ridgeland, who was appointed by then-Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, to fill a vacancy on the nine-member Supreme Court in early 2019. Griffis had served 16 years on the Court of Appeals. Before becoming a judge, he worked in private law practice and as a certified public accountant.

Westbrooks and Griffis are running for an eight-year term in a district that encompasses the central part of the state.

The two candidates spoke Monday during an online forum hosted by Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government and the Capitol press corps.

“It’s not just about diversity of gender and race,” Westbrooks said. “Along with that comes diversity of perspective, diversity of experience. … I have to remind my sisters and brothers on the court that the decisions we make impact real people.“

Griffis said justices are not supposed to bring their personal views to cases.

“Cases are to be decided based on what the facts are, the evidence that has been admitted and what the law is, not what we think it ought to be or how it’s going to impact somebody else that’s not a party to the case,“ Griffis said.

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