Mississippi Judicial College Executive Director Randy G. Pierce is this year’s recipient of the Chief Justice Award.
The award, presented annually in July, recognizes individuals whose actions have significantly impacted the law, the administration of justice, and the people of the State of Mississippi.
Chief Justice Mike Randolph said that he selected Pierce not only for his exceptional efforts to assist trial judges in dealing with the vastly changed legal landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic but also for the Judicial College’s participation in assisting the Court in its rulemaking capacity. Chief Justice Randolph said that the staff of the Judicial College has performed yeomen’s work in assisting in the drafting of rules for the Supreme Court.
Pierce expanded the role of the Judicial College beyond its traditional continuing legal education curriculum of semi-annual conferences. With most educational conferences forced to cancel, the Judicial College, led by Pierce, has filled the void with weekly online meetings and video conferences.
This innovative approach of weekly or bi-weekly video conferences conducted by the Judicial College has drawn praise from across the judicial system. Interactive meetings have been held via Zoom for Circuit and County Court judges, Chancellors, Justice Court judges, Municipal Court judges, senior status judges, intervention courts, Youth Courts, Circuit clerks, Chancery clerks, Justice Court clerks, Municipal Court clerks, court administrators, and court reporters.
Pierce said, “It’s really to educate and to give judges support as they go through these uncharted waters. Sometimes we don’t have the answers, but we will figure it out. Our job is to provide continuing education. We need to be broader. We tried to find a way to be a resource as well as provide judicial education.”
Chief Justice Randolph noted that Pierce “has been an invaluable liaison for the Supreme Court, keeping me apprised of issues as they arose during the pandemic and directly assisting the Court in finding solutions.”
Since becoming Executive Director on February 1, 2016, Pierce has tirelessly strived to broaden the scope of the Judicial College beyond that of planning and presenting periodic continuing education conferences for judges, court staff, and clerks.
Pierce left the Supreme Court to become head of the Judicial College, which is located on the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford. Less than a year remained on his court term when he moved from the judiciary to academia. He served for more than seven years as a Justice of the Supreme Court. Pierce was elected to the Supreme Court in November 2008 and took office on January 5, 2009.
At the Court, he was chair of the Rules Committee on the Legal Profession and served on the Rules Committee on Civil Practice and Procedure and the Rules Committee on Criminal Practice and Procedure.
Before he was elected to the Supreme Court, he served as Chancellor of the 16th Chancery Court, which is made up of George, Greene, and Jackson counties. Governor Haley Barbour appointed him in February 2005 to a vacancy on the 16th Chancery.
Pierce gave up a leadership role in the Legislature to join the judiciary. He was elected to House of Representatives District 105 in 1999, two and a half years out of law school. He rose quickly to prominence, becoming chairman of the House Education Committee and of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Education.
He has been a champion of education throughout his career. Getting an education changed the direction of his life. His first job out of high school was on an oil rig, where he worked as a galley hand, then a welder’s helper.
Pierce grew up in Greene County. He graduated from Leakesville High School in 1982. He attended Jones County Junior College 1984-1985. He became a certified public accountant after earning a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1987. He earned his Master’s Degree in business administration from the USM Gulf Park Campus in 1992. He earned his Juris Doctor in 1997 from the University of Mississippi School of Law and served as president of the Law School Student Body. He was admitted to the practice of law in April 1997.
While he was on the Supreme Court, Pierce became a prolific writer, not only of legal opinions. He jokes that his staff told him that he needed to find a hobby. He honed his skills as a novelist, writing in the evenings and in the wee hours. His first novel, Pain Unforgiven, was published in 2011. Magnolia Mud was published in 2014, and The Peter Bay in 2016. His fourth novel, Missy, will be released this fall.
Story provided by Beverly Pettigrew Kraft, Public Information Officer – Administrative Office of Courts