On June 10, 2010, President Obama nominated James E. Graves, b. 1953, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Graves has served as a judge in Mississippi since 1991, sitting first for 10 years on the Hinds County Circuit Court and subsequently on the state Supreme Court, first as an associate justice and now as a presiding justice. He is the only African American currently serving on the state Supreme Court.
In nominating Justice Graves, President Obama said that “throughout his career James E. Graves has shown unwavering integrity and an outstanding commitment to public service.” Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) also supports Graves, and has written that “[d]uring his tenure on the Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Graves has been a diligent and capable jurist. I am hopeful the Senate will act on his nomination soon.”
Justice Graves was born in Hinds County, Mississippi, in 1953. He received a B.A. degree from Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., in 1971, an M.P.A. in Public Administration from The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 1979, and a J.D. degree from Syracuse University School of Law in 1980. Aside from his work on the bench, Justice Graves has worked in private practice, has served as a staff attorney at Central Mississippi Legal Services, and has held various positions in the Mississippi state government, including service in the state Attorney General’s office. He has also taught at Tougaloo College, Millsaps College, and Jackson State University.
Justice Graves is an active participant in civic and professional affairs. His has served on the boards of the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts, the Greater Jackson Arts Council, the Mississippi Children’s Museum, Operation Shoestring, the Mississippi Center for Education Innovation, and the Jackson Urban League, among others. He has also been widely sought after as a speaker for both legal and non-legal groups. In 2009 alone he spoke to the Mississippi School for the Blind, the Mississippi Economic Council, the Education for Democracy Camp for Teachers, the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago, and the National Center for the Courts and Media, and to many other organizations. Graves is a Fellow of the Mississippi State Bar and has served on a variety of committees of the National Conference of State Trial Judges, working on issues of concern common to state judges. He also chairs the Mississippi Supreme Court Rules Committee on Criminal Practice and Procedure.
Justice Graves has received numerous honors and awards throughout his career, including the National Conference of Black Lawyers “Judge of the Year” award, the Jackson Public School District’s “Parent of the Year” award, and an honorary Doctor of Laws from Millsaps College.