One of Mississippi’s few black judges says white legal system froze him out and then fired him
A black judge in Mississippi claims that after years of being frozen out by his white colleagues, he has been fired from his post.
The Daily Beast reported that Judge Rickey Thompson of Lee County was the first black judge in the county’s 149-year history.
Thompson established a drug court to help channel offenders into treatment rather than incarceration. Now, after refusing to steer defendants into Thompson’s court for years, his colleagues are attempting to fire him for supposed misconduct.
“It came to the point where they couldn’t beat me at the ballot, so they had to find another direction,” Thompson said.
The judge — who was elected to his position in 2004 — was accused of a slew of offenses by the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance and removed from office by the state’s all-white Supreme Court in May. Some offenses were as simple as filling out the wrong form when filing paperwork.
The Daily Beast’s Justin Glawe wrote, “Thompson’s crimes include speaking up for a bail bondsman who had been previously suspended from operating by the sheriff; preventing a drug court defendant from choosing her own attorney over one he advocated for; keeping some people in drug court longer than the two years allowed by state law; wrongly incarcerating four people.”
Glawe pointed out that the four people who were incarcerated violated drug court requirements. However, if they had gone through the ordinary justice system, they would have spent much longer spans of time in prison.
“That means Thompson was kicked off the bench, in part, for not locking up drug offenders for longer than he did,” he wrote.
Colleagues have thrown obstacles into Thompson’s path at every turn, he said. Sheriffs stopped sending him warrants. Fellow judges declined to allow defendants to go to drug court. Sheriffs refused to serve warrants he’d signed. One morning, a white bailiff even refused to open Thompson’s court at all.
“When I first started, obviously there was a learning curve, but you see some of the bad things that are going on,” Thompson told the Beast. “And as people got to know me and know that I was going to be fair, that I wasn’t going to be a rubber stamp, that’s when the trouble started.”
Thompson’s attorney, Jim Waide, filed suit in federal court last week against the Mississippi attorney general, the local Democratic Party, and the county’s election commission to be reinstated and allowed to run for office. Thompson has proven to be an exceedingly popular judge with the black community and he believes that voters will keep him in office if given a chance.
He has already run in the primary to fill his position on the bench and won 55 percent of the vote, trouncing his five competitors. Whether he will be allowed to run in the general election this fall remains to be seen.
Watch video from earlier this year, in which Thompson responded to being suspended from drug court: