- Associated Press - Thursday, May 11, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Once a judge in Mississippi has been ordered from office because of misconduct, that person can never again hold the same judicial post, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The 6-2 decision came in the case of Rickey Thompson, a former Lee County Justice Court judge booted from office by justices in 2015. That decision cited multiple instances of wrongdoing including not being competent in the law; keeping drug court participants in the court-run program longer than the two years allowed; improperly taking drug court defendants from other counties; and signing contempt orders without giving people a chance to contest the findings. The high court also noted it had reprimanded Thompson twice earlier in 2008 and 2012.

Days before the Supreme Court removed him, Thompson had won a five-candidate primary, securing the Democratic nomination for another term. But Lee County Democratic Party officials removed him from the ballot at the direction of the attorney general.

Thompson had said his removal should only last until the end of his four-year term, and that he should then be allowed to run again. He said that otherwise, officials were creating a new qualification for office that’s not in the Mississippi Constitution.

The 1979 constitutional amendment creating the Commission on Judicial Performance, which investigates complaints about judges and recommends discipline to the Supreme Court, says the high court may “remove from office” a judge. Associate Justice Josiah Coleman, writing for the majority, said those words aren’t clearly defined by the amendment. But Coleman wrote that justices found persuasive a 2010 Arkansas case on the same issue saying removal was permanent.

Coleman’s opinion states that removal “necessarily means a permanent separation from office, such that an individual judge removed from office remains ineligible to return to it. As a necessary extension, there is no removal that is not permanent. A removal from office that is not permanent is a suspension.”

Justices Jim Kitchens and Jess Dickinson dissented, saying they believed a removal should only last as long as the term to which the judge had been elected, and that a separate state law requiring that a judicial candidate can only qualify if never before removed from office is unconstitutional.

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