- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Three judges have dismissed a federal lawsuit that sought to put a justice court judge back on the November ballot in north Mississippi after the state Supreme Court removed him from office amid findings of misconduct.

Rickey Thompson should have filed his lawsuit in state court because he’s challenging a state law about qualifications for justice court judges, the federal judges ruled Wednesday.

One of Thompson’s attorneys, Jim Waide, said he expects to file a lawsuit in state court. He said he’ll probably file in the seat of state government, Hinds County, because he thinks Lee County judges would recuse themselves.

“Rickey Thompson is probably one of the best justice court judges in Mississippi,” Waide said.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood was among those sued by Thompson.

“We will continue to defend the constitutionality of the law that prohibits judges who have been removed from office for misconduct from running for future judicial offices,” Hood, a Democrat, said in a statement Thursday.

Thompson was first elected in Lee County in 2003.

The state Commission on Judicial Performance found that between June 2012 and October 2013, Thompson lent the prestige of his office to advance private interests of others, denied a defendant her right to the lawyer of her choosing and kept several drug-court participants past the two-year limit allowed by state law. It also found he had jailed participants for unspecified violations or failure to comply with drug court.

On Sept. 17, 2014, the commission recommended Thompson be removed from office. The Supreme Court ordered Thompson removed May 21, but let him keep working and seeking re-election while he appealed. He won 55 percent of the vote in an Aug. 4 Democratic primary, and the Supreme Court issued a final order removing him nine days later.

Justice court judges in Mississippi handle small-claims civil cases, hear misdemeanor criminal cases and deal with speeding tickets or other traffic offenses that take place outside cities. They may issue search warrants and conduct bond hearings and preliminary hearings in felony criminal cases. They are not required to be attorneys, and Thompson is not one.

“Thompson has made all of his judicial decisions in accordance with the law, as he understood it,” his lawsuit said. “He confesses, however, that like all justice court judges, because of his lack of training as a lawyer, he sometimes makes legal errors.”

The Lee County Democratic executive committee on Tuesday chose Marcus Crump to replace Thompson as the nominee. Crump placed second in the primary. The Nov. 3 ballot also has two independent candidates for the justice court post, Joseph Eddie Beasley and Michael Stafford.

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