Fast Facts About Judge Joseph Anthony Sclafani
Title of Specific District: Hinds County Circuit Court, Post 4
Educational Background: Mississippi College (1996): B.S. History Mississippi College School of Law (1999): J.D.
Professional Background: Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Member at Brunini, Grantham, Grower and Hewes, PLLC Associate at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich and Rosati, PLLC Clerk for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Place of Residence: Clinton, Mississippi
The Jackson Free Press reached out to all judicial candidates who are running on the Nov. 6 ballot to represent jurisdictions throughout the Jackson Metro Area, regardless of whether they had a challenger or not. Each candidate received the same questionnaire. We've published their responses in full below, with minimal edits for editorial/reader clarity only. The JFP did not copyedit or line-edit candidate responses. The views expressed by candidates do not necessarily reflect the views of the JFP.
Please list endorsements you have received to date:
Judicial elections are not popularity contests. I have not sought any endorsements because I do not want any voter to cast a vote for me because someone told them to vote for me. I want people to vote for me if they believe I am the most qualified candidate for Circuit Judge.
If you have run for this judicial seat before, please state when. (Incumbent, please cite years in current position.)
In April 2018, I was recommended by the judicial selection committee and appointed to fill the remainder of retiring Circuit Judge Bill Gowan's term. November 6th will be the first time I will appear on the ballot for the position of Hinds County Circuit Judge.
Why do you want to serve Hinds County right now?
I accepted the appointment to the Circuit Court in April because I believe that I can help repair the broken justice system in Hinds County. Justice delayed can result in justice being denied; and the culture of continuance in criminal cases is not tolerated in my court. The backlog on the criminal docket will be eliminated in eighteen to twenty-four months, and once eliminated; a criminal defendant will receive his or her trial in my court within 270 days of indictment.
Provide an example of your legal/judicial experience when you have made an impact in Hinds County.
Since taking the bench in April, I have worked seven days a week to eliminate the backlog on the civil and criminal dockets. As a result, the civil docket has been reduced from over 1,100 cases to 325 cases. Almost every civil case now has scheduling deadlines and a trial setting, and the parties receive timely hearings and rulings on motions.
Do you think there is anything that can be done in a judicial capacity to alleviate or reduce crime in your jurisdiction?
Yes. First, many criminal defendants find themselves in court as a result of drug addiction. Rather than incarcerating these defendants for non-violent offenses, drug treatment through drug court is available. Since taking the bench, I have been a strong supporter of the drug court program. Providing defendants will an opportunity to receive drug treatment can reduce crime in Hinds County and end the cycle of incarceration.
Second, the efficient operation of the court, specifically insuring that criminal defendants will be brought to trial within 270 days of indictment will have a significant deterrent effect on crime. Additionally, consistency in sentencing following conviction likewise will have a deterrent effect on crime.
What has been the most consequential issue facing the area you serve and what do you plan to do about it?
I believe that lengthy pre-trial detention of criminal defendants is one of the most consequential issues facing Hinds County. It is unacceptable for a criminal defendant to sit in jail for two or three years awaiting a trial. As a result of implementing criminal guidelines and adopting criminal trial months, we will eliminate the backlog on the criminal docket in my court within eighteen to twenty-four months, and criminal defendants will be brought to trial within 270 days of indictment. This will ensure that the Constitutional rights of criminal defendants will be respected, as well as resulting in a savings of significant public funds.
What are the characteristics of a good judge, and how do your characteristics compare?
A good judge possesses the education, training and experience to perform his/her duties; the work ethic to maintain his/her docket; a commitment to uphold the Constitution and apply the laws of the State of Mississippi with consistency; and the temperament to treat each litigant with dignity and respect. I possess each of these four characteristics. I graduated first in my class at Mississippi College School of Law and litigated in State and Federal Courts for nineteen years, representing both plaintiffs and defendants, prior to taking the bench. I have a tireless work ethic and will work seven days a week to perform my duties. I am committed to equal justice under the law and to the equal application of the law to all litigants in my court. Finally, I treat each litigant in my court with the same dignity and respect. All men and women stand equal before my court.
What sets you apart in this race?
I have the education, experience, innovative ideas and work ethic to improve the justice system in Hinds County. Additionally, I am a Constitutional scholar with a firm understanding of both civil and criminal law and procedure. Finally, I am the only candidate in this race that has served as the judge presiding over both civil and criminal trials.
If you are unsuccessful in your race, how specifically will you continue working on behalf of your district?
If unsuccessful, I will return to private practice and resume providing pro bono legal services. Additionally, I will continue working with students in high school, college and law school to help them pursue their career in the law and related fields.