Josiah Coleman has a pedigree that runs deep with Mississippi law and politics.
He is the grandson of former Governor and Judge, J.P. Coleman and the son of retired Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Coleman.
He does not try to shy away from his family history. It's something that he's very proud of, but it's not the blood running in Coleman's veins that makes the 39 year-old law veteran believe he's qualified for the spot on the Mississippi Supreme Court that will be decided on Tuesday.
“I am very blessed to be from the family I am from,” Coleman said during a phone conversation while touring the northern portion of the state on Friday. “I am qualified based on my own education background and experience.”
The Choctaw County native was the Valedictorian in his class at Ackerman High School before he pursued degrees in History and Philosophy at the University of Mississippi in the mid-1990s.
The thought of becoming a judge struck Coleman long before his work at Ole Miss School of Law and even longer before his private practice began.
“I've had an interest in being an appellate court judge since I was in undergrad at Ole Miss,” Coleman said. “I've been fascinated for years on how judges do their jobs and interpret the Constitution and statutes.”
Coleman's interest may have been subconscious given his background, but it was genuine because he wasn't the only one who noticed his aptitude. His decision to run in 2012 was really brought on by some prodding from colleagues he had worked with over the years.
“The specific moment goes back a couple of years ago,” Coleman said. “Several attorneys that I had worked with thought I would make a good judge, and it got me thinking about this election because I knew Judge (George) Carlson was going to be retiring.”
Married just two years, and expecting his daughter, Merrimac, Coleman got the go-ahead from his wife, who has supported him throughout this endeavor.
“This year the stakes were high,” Coleman said. “I needed to enter the race to keep Mississippi Courts fair. That's a tough decision to make when you've only been married for two year sand your wife is pregnant with your first child.”
Coleman's unwavering support from his family, immediate and extended has allowed him to devote the last year to campaigning for the judicial post.
His opponent Flip Phillips has also been making the rounds in north Mississippi.
Like Coleman, he's been in Clay County and has toured the Golden Triangle quite a bit in the last few months.
Coleman says that the most important ideological difference between he and Phillips is on the role of courts. Coleman says that his opponent has made it clear that judges can and should circumvent the legislature and should play an active role in changing society.
“His judicial philosophy is the biggest distinction between the two of us,” Coleman said. “He has written articles in law journals where he says that he believes our courts exist to change society and when the legislative branch fails to regulate our businesses, the courts should step in.”
Coleman says this is a violation of the Separation of Powers and it is the philosophy that led to decisions like Roe vs. Wade in the early 1970s.
“That is not how our Constitutional system is set up,” Coleman said.
Another issue dear to Coleman is that of Tort Reform.
Prior to a decade ago, Mississippi had garnered the reputation of a state where lawsuits were rampant. Known as the “lawsuit Mecca” or the “home of jackpot justice” Mississippi took steps in the last 10 years to cut down on frivolous lawsuits and claims through Tort Reform measures passed in 2004.
Coleman pledges to continue down the path that has brought fewer suits and claims in the last eight years.
“A lot of work has been done in the past 20-30 years to return us to a fair climate of litigation,” Coleman said. “This election cycle determines whether we continue on that trend or return to the old ways when Mississippi was viewed as the home of jackpot justice, where the courts in their view were better representatives than the legislature.”
Coleman says that no matter the voter's political orientation, the vote for Supreme Court should be about electing non-partisan judges.
“Regardless of whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, you want the courts to be fair,” Coleman said. “You want judges on the court that demand the same law for themselves as those who appear in the court room.”