Mississippi: a choice on the Supreme Court

October 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Legislation | Mississippi

As we mentioned in our last post, Mississippians face a choice this November for our elected Supreme Court justice. In the Central District, where Parents Against Personhood is headquartered, the two candidates are Chief Justice Bill Waller and Rep. Earle Banks.

We’re a non-partisan organization, and our only issue is personhood. On the strength of that one issue, we believe it’s important to remove Judge Waller and replace him with Rep. Banks.

In September 2011, Judge Waller concurred with the majority opinion in Hughes v Hosemann, which allowed personhood to proceed to the Mississippi ballot. The opinion endorsed by Judge Waller stated that

Our law provides that this Court cannot interfere with the legislative act of the people, just as this Court cannot interfere with the attempt of the Legislature to pass a law.

The issue in Hughes v Hosemann wasn’t just personhood, but the limit of the initiative process itself. The Mississippi Constitution clearly states that the initiative process cannot be used to modify Article 3, the Bill of Rights, and yet the text of the initiative sought to modify the Bill of Rights. It doesn’t take a determination of complex constitutional issues to see that Initiative 26 was invalid on its face, even before evaluating the personhood question. Yet Judge Waller and his colleagues found that “the wisdom and merit of proposed initiatives are best left to the purview of the voters.”

Under the precedent of Hughes v Hosemann, any sort of unconstitutional initiative could be permitted to appear on the ballot in the name of what Judge Waller and his colleagues termed

the sovereign right of the people to vote on this measure…Today‚Äôs decision respects the
rights of 106,325 citizens who signed these petitions and an incalculable number of citizens who otherwise support a vote, pro or con, on the measure.

In Judge Waller’s view, the “sovereign right of the people” justifies any attempt to revoke the constitutional rights of other people. Had Initiative 26 passed, as seemed nearly certain at the time of the ruling, Mississippi women and families would have seen their rights infringed, and would be unable to get judicial relief until after the violation had already occurred.

While Mississippi judicial candidates are not permitted to discuss specific issues, we believe the two candidates’ records speak for themselves. Judge Waller has already supported personhood on the ballot one time, and will presumably do so in the future. In contrast, Rep. Banks has consistently voted against personhood measures in the past during his time in the Mississippi Legislature.

Given that it’s a realistic possibility that personhood supporters will attempt to place the issue back on the ballot in 2015, we believe it’s important to elect the right candidate to the Mississippi Supreme Court. When it comes to personhood, we think the choice is clear.

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