Jackson County, Mississippi, Judge Jack L. Smith Jr. said Tuesday that the state has “a judicial branch that is failing to make its work of justice as transparent and fair as possible.”
Smith, who has been in office since 2009, said the Judicial Branch Reform Act, which has bipartisan support, was “necessary to address a system that fails to adequately serve its members.”
The bill, which was introduced in December, was referred to the Mississippi House Judiciary Committee last week and could have been voted on sooner.
Smith has been a fixture in the state’s courtroom for more than 20 years.
He took office in 2011 after a stint as a judge in Alabama and was named to the state supreme court in January.
He has also been a member of the state legislature since 2012.
The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office, the state attorney general’s office and other state agencies have been accused of failing to keep the public informed about criminal cases and the quality of evidence used in criminal trials.
In response, lawmakers have pushed for more transparency.
Smith said the state is working on “procedural reform” that would allow prosecutors to give jurors the opportunity to view the prosecution’s case and its evidence, which he said would allow jurors to make up their own minds about whether they agree with the prosecution.