It has been confirmed that Batesville attorney, Richard “Flip” Phillips, has qualified to run for the Supreme Court position currently held by Justice George Carlson. Carlson has announced he will retire after his term is complete. The election will take place in November of this year. It is rumored that Phillips was very close to being appointed to the position when Governor Musgrove decided on Carlson. Carlson and Phillips, from the same geographic region, are said to be good friends.
Phillips, age 64, will be an imposing figure in the race and may even deter others from entering the Secretary of State’s office to qualify. Phillips is reputed to have substantial personal wealth derived from his successful law practice and other business ventures. He has financially supported numerous political candidates from both parties, with more recent involvement tilting Republican. The judicial race will be non-partisan. Just as Republican Congressman Gregg Harper was, Phillips was a trial lawyer years ago, but began representing primarily manufacturers, banks and local governments in the last decade. This will give him great appeal on both sides of the civil trial bar. He also has not been involved in the criminal law field - a fact that should minimize some of the ridiculous third party attacks we have seen in recent judicial elections.
Judges are not allowed to solicit or receive contributions to their campaign this year until March 11, which will give Phillips an enormous advantage. He can spend his own money getting organized, printing materials, hiring the best campaign minds in the district, before the others (if there are any) can even hold a fundraising reception.
Phillips, and wife Vera, have grandchildren in the Jackson area, making the trip back and forth to Jackson a pleasure rather than a burden. The grind of the trip from north Mississippi to Jackson is often cited as a reason for potential candidates to pass on the race (particularly if they have young families) and is rumored to be the reason appellate Judge Jimmy Maxwell and Chancery Judge Robert “Bobby” Chamberlain passed on the opportunity, keeping their powder dry for another day.
It is not often that the money, the enthusiasm, the resume, the politics, the family ties and the mojo so quickly line up in a Supreme Court race. This could be a one horse contest.