Supreme Court candidates tell reasons they’re in race

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 8, 2000

Frank Vollor of Vicksburg said he’s running for a seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court because of frustration with how the court operates.

His opponent, incumbent James W. “Jim” Smith Jr., pointed to his record as the reason voters should support him.

Both candidates for the District 1 Place 3 seat on the state’s high court in the Nov. 7 general election addressed the Vicksburg Rotary Club Thursday. District 1 covers central Mississippi from Vicksburg to Meridian.

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“I’m running for the Supreme Court out of frustration at the way the court operates,” said Vollor, 52, who has been a judge of the 9th Circuit Court District since 1989.

He said there are three reasons he’s running.

“I believe decisions should be made based on the law and not on personal beliefs and political agendas,” he said.

Secondly, Vollor said, he wants to return common sense to the court.

The third reason, he said, is a belief that everyone before the court should be treated equally.

Vollor spent most of his brief talk discussing his second reason, bringing common sense to the court.

“The Supreme Court says jurors in a trial can take notes, but they can’t use those notes in their deliberations,” he said. “That shows a lack of appreciation of the dynamics of a long and complicated trial.

“I will use my experience (as a trial judge) to fashion decisions that will be guided by common sense,” he said.

Vollor said the American system of justice can exist only because the people have faith in the judges. “I ask for your support to rekindle that faith,” he said.

“I can’t argue with anything Judge Vollor says,” Smith, 57, said in his opening remarks. But, the eight-year veteran of the court pointed to his years as a lawyer in private practice followed by service as the attorney for the City of Pearl, Rankin County prosecuting attorney, district attorney and Rankin County Court judge as reasons he deserves support.

“I invite scrutiny of my record,” he said, pointing out he has heard 69 death penalty cases and voted to uphold 62 of them.

He also said his record is one of a conservative judge in the same mold as some of the more conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In all cases heard, someone’s values will prevail.

“Why can’t the values that prevail be yours and mine?” Smith said.

Smith criticized the way Supreme Court races are financed.

“They should take all the lawyers out of it,” he said.

Smith said he is the only candidate of nine seeking spots on the high court who has been endorsed by the state’s prosecutors. Vollor replied by saying that he, too, enjoys the support of the local prosecutors.

“Ask Johnny Price (Warren County prosecutor),” he said.