A review of the 2010 judicial elections in Mississippi reveals an electorate generally satisfied with its judges, and a judiciary highly impacted by appointments in recent years by Gov. Haley R. Barbour.

Supreme Court Justice Jess Dickinson drew no challenge in his reelection bid. Five incumbents on the Court of Appeals sought election and all won; only two faced opposition.

Mississippians elected 49 chancery judges in 2010 and 43 were unopposed. One incumbent won reelection even after passing away. There were four open and contested seats. Only two incumbent chancellors faced a challenge: one won; one lost. Judge Edwin H. Roberts Jr. (18th District) defeated his challenger with 69 percent of the vote. Controversial Judge Larry Buffington (13th District) lost in the run-off with 32 percent of the vote. A recommendation by the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance for a public rebuke of Buffington is pending at the Mississippi Supreme Court.

On the circuit court level, 53 judges were elected this year and 36 were unopposed. Seven open seats were contested. Ten incumbents faced a challenge but only two lost: R.I. "Rip" Prichard III lost to Tony Mozingo (District 15 Place 1); and Malcolm Harrison lost to Bill Gowan (District 7 Place 4).

On these three court levels, 78 percent of the candidates faced no opposition; 79 percent of challenged incumbents won reelection.

The legal community sometimes debates whether Mississippi should stop electing judges and instead move to an appointment, committee selection, retention, or a hybrid of these styles for choosing our judiciary. That argument is moot. There seems to be little clamor for change and except for open seats, we basically have a de facto appointment and retention system.

Four of the nine justices on the Mississippi Supreme Court first arrived on that Court through an appointment by a governor; and five of the ten justices on the Mississippi Court of Appeals joined that court through appointment.

Barbour has made 28 appointments to the judiciary: two to the Supreme Court, four to the Court of Appeals, six chancery judges, thirteen circuit court judges, and three county judges. Each of those appointments sought reelection and won, except two.

Barbour appointed Bill Gowan to be a Hinds County Court Judge in 2006 and subsequently, the Mississippi Supreme Court chose Gowan as a special Circuit Court Judge for Hinds. In 2009, Barbour appointed Malcolm Harrison to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Circuit Court Judge Bobby DeLaughter in Hinds County. Harrison ran for reelection this year, challenged by Gowan, who won. The only Barbour appointee to lose reelection was defeated by another prior Barbour appointee.

Another example of Barbour's impact on the judiciary involves Supreme Court Justice Randy "Bubba" Pierce. Many Democrats saw Pierce, a legislator from Greene County and Chairman of the House Education Committee, as a rising star in their party. His conservative politics would seem to give him crossover appeal among Mississippi independents and even some Republicans. It turned out they were too right. Barbour appointed Pierce to the chancery court in 2005 where he was subsequently elected without opposition in 2006. Pierce then ran for the Supreme Court in 2008 and unseated incumbent Justice Oliver Diaz. Diaz himself was first appointed to the Supreme Court by Governor Ronnie Musgrove in 2000 and elected to that position later that year.

Presumably Barbour will make at least two more judicial appointments in coming months. President Barack Obama nominated Supreme Court Justice James Graves to a seat on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Graves, a former Hinds County Judge appointed to the high court by Musgrove, is anticipated to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. This will provide a third appointment to the Supreme Court for Barbour. Barbour will appoint a 10th District Chancery Judge to fill the vacancy created when incumbent Judge H.C. Thomas Jr. won reelection this November despite being deceased.

It is not uncommon to find Barbour lending his name, finances, or time through fundraising appearances to his appointments seeking reelection. This election cycle he also endorsed or contributed to a number of judicial campaigns not involving his appointees including circuit court candidates Jeff Weill, John Gregory, Gerald Chatham, Bob Marshall and incumbent Jim Kitchens - all of whom but Marshall won. Barbour also supported Madison County Court candidate Will Longwitz who lost in the run-off to Steve Ratcliff.

As he approaches his final year as governor, Barbour's political stamp on the state's judiciary will endure. He kept his campaign promise to create a Judicial Advisory Committee to take applications, vet candidates, and make recommendations for appointments. That committee - chaired by Jackson attorney Ed Brunini, Jr. - introduced a level of professionalism to judicial appointments detached from campaign contributors. The result is a legacy of Barbour judicial appointees overwhelmingly endorsed in subsequent elections by voters.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at: reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.