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Relationships at the bar

MBJ Editorial

A June 18th story by staff writer Tom Wilemon of The Sun Herald has raised a question that demands public consideration: When it comes to judges, lawyers and their relationships, how cozy is too cozy?

According to the article, a number of prominent trial lawyers and two Mississippi Supreme Court justices spent an early-June evening socializing at a Coast bed-and-breakfast.

“It wasn’t for judges,” Justice Oliver Diaz told the newspaper. “But there were a good number of judges there.” Diaz’s ex-wife happens to own the B&B where the party was held. Police were called to the property after neighbors complained about the noise.

The news of this little get-together has caused a fair amount of consternation in the Mississippi business community. As the civil justice issue rages in our state, many of us have been wondering about the fundamental fairness of our courts. Having judges and lawyers, who make their money from verdicts which frequently end up before the

Supreme Court on appeal, partying together presents a serious conflict-of-interest challenge, and threatens the impartiality, transparency and integrity upon which our legal system is built.

In Mississippi, change takes time, but it’s coming. More Mississippians are realizing that the legal climate in our state threatens their jobs, health care, insurance and even the price of groceries. After all, businesses don’t absorb costs. They pass them along to customers. We’re all paying for “jackpot justice.”

And that’s nothing to party about.

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