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Gov names 1 to Mississippi high court, 1 to appeals court

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is promoting a Court of Appeals judge to the state Supreme Court. And, he’s appointing a legislator to fill the vacancy on the Mississippi Court of Appeals.

Bryant announced Wednesday that he’s naming Court of Appeals Judge Kenny Griffis of Ridgeland to succeed Justice Bill Waller Jr. of Jackson, who retires Jan. 31. Griffis will join the nine-member Supreme Court on Feb. 1 and will serve the rest of the term, which ends in January 2022.

Bryant named first-term Republican state Rep. Cory Wilson of Madison to succeed Griffis on the 10-person appeals court. Wilson will serve the rest of the term, which ends in January 2023.

Griffis is a Meridian native and earned his law degree from the University of Mississippi. He has served on the 10-person Mississippi Court of Appeals since 2003 and recently became chief judge. He was in private law practice from 1995 to 2003 and has also been a certified public accountant.

“He has an outstanding legal mind and is highly respected among his peers,” Bryant said in a news release announcing Griffis’ appointment. “I have full faith Judge Griffis will be a real asset to the Mississippi Supreme Court.”

Griffis unsuccessfully challenged Supreme Court Justice Jim Kitchens of Crystal Springs in a 2016 election, with Bryant donating to Griffis’ campaign. Supreme Court justices are chosen from northern, central and southern districts. Kitchens holds one central district seat, and Griffis will hold another.

Griffis said in the news release that serving on the Court of Appeals has been an honor.

“I am committed to the rule of law, to apply the law fairly and impartially and to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of Mississippi,” Griffis said.

Wilson grew up in Moss Point and earned his law degree from Yale University. He was chief of staff for Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann from 2008 to 2011. From 2014 to 2015, he was a senior adviser and attorney for state Treasurer Lynn Fitch. In addition to serving in the House, he is in private law practice concentrating on business, commercial and construction litigation, elections law and appellate work in state and federal courts.

Court of Appeals judges are elected from the five U.S. House districts that Mississippi used before the 2000 census, and Wilson will fill a seat in the 3rd District in the east central part of the state.

Bryant said in a news release that Wilson has been a “superb” legislator.

“He has an outstanding history of serving the people of the state of Mississippi in various roles, and this is only the next step for him in doing that,” Bryant said.

Wilson, like Griffis, said he is grateful to the governor.

“The appointment offered this week by Gov. Bryant to fill an unexpected vacancy on our Court of Appeals is a rare opportunity to stand for the rule of law and to serve in a challenging new role,” Wilson said in the release.

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