Benjamin E. Griffith is a Mississippi Patron Fellow and Principal of Griffith Law Firm in Oxford, MS. Mr. Griffith joined the Fellows in August 2009.
What does being a Fellow mean to you?
As a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, I take pride in the ABF’s mission to support scholarship and cutting-edge research—worthwhile endeavors that materially advance justice and understanding of the rule of law and make our legal institutions more resilient. It is a signal honor to be recommended by one’s peers to be part of a global honorary society of lawyers and judges based on excellence in the legal profession. These are indeed the long-haulers, the ones who consistently represent the best values of our profession.
Where were you born and raised?
Cleveland, MS, a Mississippi Delta college town where I was the second of five children, three of them lawyers. Daddy was an attorney in a firm that focused on civil litigation and Momma with his help did a wonderful job raising us, returning to teach in high school as four of us went off to college and the caboose in our litter neared his teenage years.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in law and academia?
I was drawn to state and local government law in my early years, learning core skills from lawyers in the firm who represented school boards, municipalities, county boards and other public sector clients. Through contacts and leadership positions in several organizations of municipal and county attorneys, including IMLA, DRI and the ABA, I was fortunate to become involved early in my practice in Voting Rights Act litigation and defense work in other states. My insurance defense practice grew to provide a balanced law practice in which I enjoyed not only the work but the colleagues and friends with whom I associated throughout the mid-south. As a natural outgrowth of my private practice, I am an adjunct professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law and enjoy teaching election law to the next generation of leaders. This is in addition to being somewhat hyperactive in publications and continuing legal education within my area of expertise. Both my practice and my career in academia have been enhanced by my work with the ABA, which has included serving on the Board of Governors and the House of Delegates, chairing the Section of State & Local Government Law, chairing the ABA Standing Committee on Election Law and working with many other worthwhile entities from CEELI and ROLI to the Cybersecurity Legal Task Force.
If you had decided not to pursue a career in law, what would you have done?
There are two possibilities. I could have become a preacher or a language instructor. Moderating a session meeting in a Presbyterian Church is not that different from mediating a major civil dispute involving complex claims. With an undergraduate major in English and German I could have easily found myself in a Munich gymnasium teaching basic English to German high school students.
What do you do in your free time?
I enjoy traveling and over the decades have sampled the cultures, languages, history and customs of scores of countries throughout the world. I hope to continue that learning process with my wife as we enter the Autumn of our married life.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
The ABF provides a meaningful platform for lawyers to fulfill their oath to serve the marginalized and secure real justice for those who are pushed to the outskirts of our communities. Just as my government clients over the years helped introduce me to Section 2 vote dilution cases, redistricting litigation, administrative law, and defense of governmental entities in §1983 litigation, it is my hope that active involvement with the ABF will continue to grow and lead me to a greater level of service to others within and beyond the legal profession.