Jim Kitchens, a former district attorney running for the Mississippi Supreme Court, said Monday he opposes any measure to take away the rights of Mississippians to vote for their judges.
"Under his plan, Justice Smith would take away the right of every voter in Mississippi to elect an entire branch of state government," Kitchens said. "I don't believe that taking away someone's right to vote and giving that sacred power to a politician is in our state's best interest."
Kitchens said the idea that appointing judges would rid the judicial system of politics is absurd, pointing out that facts in recent bribery cases actually repudiate Smith's claims.
"If you look at the recent bribery cases, it was an elected judge who did the right thing when he told the FBI someone tried to bribe him," Kitchens said.
Kitchens said he wants the Supreme Court to study the way judicial campaigns are financed.
"We need campaign finance reform," Kitchens said. "We should have a system where a judge does not know who gave to the campaign or who declined to give to the campaign. That way, when an attorney appears before the judge, campaign contributions will not play a part in the rulings."
Under Mississippi law, judicial candidates are not allowed to ask for campaign donations. However, candidates are required to sign a statement certifying they have reviewed all campaign donations and that the report is accurate.
Kitchens instructed his staff not to tell him the name of anyone who donates to his campaign. To ensure accuracy in his campaign finance reports, his sister-in-law, who serves as the campaign treasurer; his daughter, who is the business manager for his law firm; and his campaign manager review all donations and certify to Kitchens that the report is correct.
"I trust my family, and I trust my campaign staff," Kitchens said. "I don't want to know who gives to my campaign. I don't want anyone who comes before me to fear I'll rule against them because they did not donate to my campaign or because they supported my opponent when I ran for office."
Kitchens said a committee of judges, attorneys and lay people should study proposals for reforming judicial campaign finance laws. Included in consideration should be a blind trust system of campaign financing that prevents judicial candidates from seeing individual donations.