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Retirement ceremony to be held for Chief Justice Waller

Mississippi Supreme Court
Mississippi Supreme Court Building. Photo by News Mississippi.

A retirement ceremony honoring Chief Justice William L. (Bill) Waller Jr. will be held Jan. 25 at 11 a.m. at the Supreme Court Courthouse in Jackson and during the ceremony, Chief Justice Waller will present his portrait to the Supreme Court.  Chief Justice Waller, 66, of Jackson, will retire on January 31 after more than 21 years of service on the Supreme Court and 10 years as Chief Justice.

“It has been my highest privilege to be elected, reelected twice, and to serve as a Justice, Presiding Justice, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,” said Waller.

Chief Justice Waller was elected in November 1996 and took office in January 1998.  He was a presiding justice for five years. He became Chief Justice in January 2009.

Speakers for the ceremony will include former Mississippi Bar President Roy D. Campbell III and Presiding Justice Jim Kitchens. Chief Justice Waller will give a response, then unveil the portrait, which was painted by Bill Wilson of Jackson. Upon retirement from the court, Chief Justice Waller plans to become a senior status judge and remain active in Access to Justice and other administration of justice endeavors. He would like to teach as an adjunct professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law and the Mississippi College School of Law. He previously taught pretrial practice at both law schools.

Waller has been a champion of meaningful access to the courts for all people. At his urging, free family law clinics for the poor were held in every chancery court district in the state last year. More than 1,000 hours of free legal assistance were provided to more than 600 clients through the work of more than 330 attorneys. He has urged chancellors and attorneys to continue the free clinics, and many are already scheduled.

His early priorities as Chief Justice included expanding drug courts to all 22 circuit court districts, which was accomplished in 2012. He has sought to bring about reforms in the administration of justice through legislation and rule changes. He led the adoption and development of the Mississippi Electronic Courts (MEC) e-filing system. More than 5,400 attorneys are registered for MEC and are conducting court business via e-filing in 58 counties in chancery courts, 23 counties in circuit courts and in 11 county courts. More than 80 percent of the Mississippi population is covered by MEC in chancery courts and 50 percent of the state population is covered in circuit courts. Appellate e-filing began at the Mississippi Supreme Court and Mississippi Court of Appeals in 2014.

Chief Justice Waller served as a member of the Criminal Rules Committee which, under the leadership of former Justice Ann Lamar, studied and prepared the Mississippi Rules of Criminal Procedure that were adopted unanimously by the Supreme Court. When new criminal rules went into effect in July 2017, for the first time in the history of the state, every aspect of criminal proceedings, from arrest to post-trial motions, was covered in one comprehensive set of rules.

He was the principal architect of legislation which created the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel, the Office of Indigent Appeals, and the Comprehensive Electronic Court System Fund that provides funding for MEC.  Most recently, he provided leadership for the creation of a second county court judgeship for Lee County, primarily to address an overwhelming caseload in Youth Court. He has supported funding for parent representation in Youth Court that has proven effective in reducing foster care placements.

Chief Justice Waller has worked to make sure that the Judiciary is adequately funded and staffed and has adequate facilities. He provided leadership to the passage by the Legislature of the historic Judicial Compensation Reform Act of 2012, which promotes judicial independence. The pay raise was funded without general fund appropriations. He was a member of the Building Committee that oversaw the funding, placement, and construction of the Mississippi Supreme Court Courthouse in the design inspired by former Chief Justice Lenore Prather. The Courthouse was dedicated in 2011with former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia providing the keynote address. Chief Justice Waller has spoken to local boards of supervisors to encourage courthouse upkeep, renovations, and security.

One of the highlights of his tenure as Chief Justice was joining the Mississippi Bar and the two law schools to commemorate the Bicentennial of Mississippi’s Judiciary and Legal Profession on Sept. 27, 2017.  This included the participation of the Chief Justice of the United States, John  G. Roberts, Jr., the third U.S. Chief Justice to visit Mississippi since statehood.

He is the eldest son of the late Gov. Bill Waller, Sr., and the late Carroll Overton Waller. He was in private law practice in the firm of Waller and Waller in Jackson from 1977 to January 1998. He served as municipal judge for the city of Jackson from January 1995 until July 1996. A graduate of the U.S. Army War College, he completed 30 years of service in the Mississippi Army National Guard, attaining the rank of Brigadier General while serving as Commander of the 66th Troop Command.

He is a native of Jackson, an Eagle Scout and a graduate of Murrah High School. He received his undergraduate degree in general business with an emphasis in finance, tax, and insurance from Mississippi State University in 1974. He received his law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1977. Mississippi College School of Law conferred an honorary Doctor of Law degree upon him in 2012.

Chief Justice Waller and his wife, Charlotte, have three adult children and two grandchildren. They are members of First Baptist Church Jackson.

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