Judge Teeuwissen takes oath as Hinds County Court Judge

December 5, 2023

Colleagues and friends called newly appointed Hinds County Court Judge Pieter Teeuwissen a visionary problem solver with a long record of public service.

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Judge Teeuwissen, 57, of Jackson, took the oath of office on Nov. 30 and started work on Dec. 4 as a Hinds County Court Judge. Gov. Tate Reeves appointed Judge Teeuwissen as County Court Judge for Hinds County, Subdistrict 2, to fill the vacancy created by the death of Judge LaRita Cooper-Stokes on May 8.

Judge James E. Graves Jr. of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has known Teeuwissen since the new judge was a student at Tougaloo College. Judge Graves said at the investiture ceremony, “What he demonstrated to me and many others is that he is a visionary leader. What I saw is a man who identified problems and then devised solutions to those problems – legal problems, practical problems, people problems. That’s what he has been involved in doing throughout his entire career, and those are great qualities for a judge to possess – the ability to solve problems.”

“He has evidenced an unwavering commitment to public service,” Judge Graves said. “I am convinced that he is the right person at the right time and we can all count on him to do the right thing. I have no doubt that he will serve with honor because the people deserve it, dignity because his family expects it, and integrity because God requires it.”

Chancellor Crystal Wise-Martin, who administered the oath of office, said, “He has generously given his time and talents to anyone who would ask....He had demonstrated his contributions to Hinds County and the City of Jackson in the various capacities he has served.” She said that Judge Teeuwissen “will be a tremendous asset to the bench, just as he has been to the entire legal profession and the community as a whole.”

Judge Teeuwissen began his remarks stating, “If you don’t know that a higher power exists, then you need to find out.” Then he offered prayer.

A gallery of current and former judges gathered for the investiture. Judge Teeuwissen said that he stood on the shoulders of trailblazers including three former Supreme Court Justices: Reuben V. Anderson, Fred L. Banks Jr., and James E. Graves Jr.

They were the first, second and third African-American Justices of the Mississippi Supreme Court. Justice Anderson began his judicial service as Hinds County Court Judge and served as Circuit Judge of the Seventh Circuit of Hinds and Yazoo counties. Justice Banks and Justice Graves served first on the Seventh Circuit Court before appointment and election to the Supreme Court. Judge Graves is the third African-American judge on the Fifth Circuit.

Judge Teeuwissen said that he’s known them since he was a kid. Banks as a civil rights lawyer worked with Teeuwissen’s mother, Betsy Teeuwissen, to make high quality schools available to all. Graves and his brother convinced Teeuwissen not to drop out of Tougaloo at age 16, and Anderson interceded to keep him from being kicked out of Tougaloo as a rambunctious senior. Judge Graves noted that Teeuwissen graduated magna cum laude from Tougaloo. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1987, majoring in history and political science with a minor in English. He did post-graduate study in pre-medicine at Tougaloo.

After he completed law school at the University of Minnesota in 1990, he returned to Mississippi to practice law, although some had tried to convince him to follow a career path elsewhere. Of his predecessors, he said, “They inspired me to practice law. They inspired me to come back to Mississippi....I wanted to be like them.”

Judge Teeuwissen emphasized the importance of Hinds County as the home of jurists who made significant contributions to jurisprudence. He noted that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh repeatedly quoted Justice Graves’ words regarding racial discrimination in jury selection when the nation’s highest court reversed a fourth conviction after six trials of Curtis Flowers. Then-Justice Graves, a Hinds County native, wrote the opinion of the third reversal of capital murder convictions against Flowers.

“Hinds County is an important place. It is near and dear to my heart. If you don’t think that the judges across the street and the judges in this building are important, then you don’t understand the value of Hinds County,” Judge Teeuwissen said.

“Bear in mind at all times the words of Martin Luther King: ‘The moral arc of the universe bends slowly, but it bends towards justice. It is humbling and it is an honor to help bend that moral arc of justice for the citizens of Hinds County.”

His wife Lisa Teeuwissen held the Bible as he took the oath, and his wife along with daughter Nina helped him don the robe. His mother-in-law, Brenda Brown, also accompanied him to the service. He said that these strong women are the rock of the family. He thanked his family for their support in their deep grief over the death of his daughter and grandson in 2020, and the death of his mother in 2021. He said, “Family, I love you more than words could ever say.”

Judge Teeuwissen praised the public service of Judge Cooper-Stokes and her husband, Jackson City Councilman Kenneth Stokes. Judge Teeuwissen recalled working alongside Judge Stokes in his first job in the legal profession, staff attorney for the Department of Human Services. Judge Stokes was an attorney for DHS, and Judge Graves was a supervising attorney for DHS at that time.

Judge Teeuwissen served as City Attorney for the City of Jackson for more than nine years, and as Board Attorney for Hinds County for more than six years. He also served by appointment as Special Circuit Judge for the Hinds County Circuit Court in 2008.

The Mississippi Supreme Court appointed him to the Board of Bar Admissions in 2002, and he continues to serve. He served a term as chair of the board, and several terms as vice-chair. He is a member of the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Judge Graves said that Judge Teeuwissen also is well-rounded with community involvement. He coached New Hope Christian School girls basketball 2004-2011, and served as president of the school’s Parent Student Association. He also coached the Jackson Lady Hornets.

He has practiced law in Jackson for 33 years. He practiced for many years with law partner Anthony Simon as Simon and Teeuwissen. Previous firms included Danks, Simon, Teeuwissen & Associates, where he was managing partner; Dockins Simon & Teeuwissen; Byrd & Associates; and Cherry Givens Lockett Peters & Diaz.

He is a Life Member of the Magnolia Bar Association. The Magnolia Bar honored him with the R. Jess Brown Award and its Government Service Award for service on behalf of women and minorities. He was named a Fellow of the Mississippi Bar Foundation. He is a member of Ome-ga Psi Phi Fraternity and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity.

Judge Teeuwissen and his family attend Tougaloo College United Church of Christ and New Hope Baptist Church.