OKOLONA – Sumeka Thomas stretched out her arms as her mother and father helped her put on her judicial robe last week.
The ceremonial gesture known as robing followed the administering of the oath of office by 14th Chancery District Judge Kenneth Burns and was a visible sign Thomas is now the Okolona Municipal Court Judge.
“Words cannot express this feeling,” said Thomas as she looked at her new black robe. “This is something I dreamed of as a law student.
“I have to thank my parents and this community for supporting me,” Thomas added. “I look forward to serving this community. I love Okolona and the reason I came home was to serve the people of this community.”
A 1999 graduate of Okolona High School, Thomas went to Ole Miss where she obtained her undergraduate degree in History and her Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law. She practiced with a Tupelo firm for one year and then returned to Okolona six years ago where she hung her shingle out on Main Street.
More than 70 people attended Tuesday’s mid-day ceremony.
“I want to point out, unlike other elected officials, judges take two oaths,” said Burns. “They take an oath to administer justice without respect to persons and one to fairly and impartially up hold the laws of the State of Mississippi and United States Constitution.”
Thomas was seated at the Okolona Municipal Court bench immediately.
Thomas’ appointment was not without controversy.
The Okolona Municipal Judge post is appointed by the Okolona Board of Mayor and Aldermen. A newly elected board voted in July to change their appointment for Okolona Municipal Judge, but the move was vetoed by the mayor, prompting aldermen to seek an Attorney General’s opinion on the veto power of the mayor.
Okolona Mayor Louise Cole vetoed a 5-1 decision by the Okolona City Council July 2 to appoint attorney Thomas as Municipal Judge and Cole named herself judge in the interim.
Thomas replaces longtime Okolona Municipal Judge Kenneth Mayfield.
Thomas was the city’s public defender and Cole said the city will now contract with an attorney to fill that post “on an as-needed basis.”
“I take this appointment very seriously,” said Thomas. “I want people to know that I will fairly uphold the law at all costs.”
Thomas’ specialty is family law. A very broad area of the law, it deals with family-related issues and domestic relations. Thomas pointed out family law covers everything from marriage, adoption and divorce to child custody and child support. It can include wills, estates and property settlements.
Tuesday’s ceremony also saw Okolona Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Perry Grubbs offer the opening prayer, Okolona Messenger Editor Murray Blankenship lead the Pledge of Allegience and Okolona Alderman Mary Gates give the welcome.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Rev. Jimmy Bryan asked family and friends to gather around Thomas and pray over her.