Candidates may begin filing to run for two new vacant judgeships immediately after Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves ordered the establishment of two new county courts.
“Attention Lafayette and Oktibbeha County,” Gov. Reeves tweeted Tuesday. “Today, I issued proclamations creating a county court in your counties. If you’re an attorney, and you want to run for county court judge, the qualifying deadline for the newly created county courts is February 1.”
In Mississippi, county courts have sole jurisdiction over issues related to eminent domain, juvenile proceedings and may take non-capital felony cases transferred from the state’s circuit courts. County-court judges can preside over preliminary hearings, set bond and issue search warrants, courts.ms.gov explains.
Reeves’ proclamation explains that, under state law, “a county court shall be established in ‘each county that has a population exceeding fifty thousand (50,000) inhabitants as shown by the latest federal decennial census.’” The 2020 Census revealed that Oktibbeha’s population was 51,788 as of April 1, 2020, while Lafayette County’s population grew to 55,813.
With today’s proclamation, there are now county courts in 24 of the state’s 82 counties, including: Adams, Bolivar, Coahoma, DeSoto, Forrest, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Jackson, Jones, Lafayette, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lee, Lefore, Lowndes, Madison, Oktibbeha, Pearl River, Pike, Rankin, Warren, Washington and Yazoo.
To qualify to run for a county-court judgeship, a candidate must live in the county-court district, be at least 26 years old, a practicing attorney for at least five years and a resident of the state for at least five years before the election, a guide on the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website says. A candidate must also have lived in the county they are running in for at least two years by election day.
The qualifying period for all judicial elections in the state this year, including for other county court seats, began on Jan. 3 and all seats share a Feb. 1 deadline as well. The governor’s announcement gives prospective candidates in Lafayette and Oktibbeha counties just 12 days to file. County court elections are non-partisan. Election Day is Nov. 8, 2022.