Three men want one job – to replace Henry Lackey of Calhoun City as judge in Circuit Court District 3.
John Gregory, Tom Levidiotis and David Rozier are attorneys, white, over 50 years of age and promise to work hard, if elected.
Otherwise, they present themselves very differently as candidates to succeed the retiring Lackey in one of the region’s highest-profile races.
Gregory, 58, has lived most of his life in Chickasaw County. He grew up on a farm and went on to play football at Ole Miss in 1969.
He earned his law degree from Jackson School of Law and then clerked for a state Supreme Court justice.
After nine years as an assistant district attorney, he’s still Chickasaw County’s prosecuting attorney, supervisors’ attorney and school board attorney.
The Okolona Presbyterian Church elder and past president of the chamber of commerce is a family man – married 34 years with adult son and daughter.
As an assistant district attorney, he said, “I prosecuted more cases in one term of court than most lawyers handle in a lifetime.”
Levidiotis, 65, came to the legal profession later in life. He worked at a variety of jobs, including time in the building and food service industries. He taught high school, crewed on a tugboat, had an interest in a dental laboratory and owned and operated a small loan and retail business.
At age 44, he earned his bachelor’s degree and then three years later his law degree at the top of his class at the Ole Miss School of Law.
He’s been a public defender, worked death-penalty appeals and prosecuted felony cases as an assistant district attorney.
He recently ran his first half-marathon, and said he likes to spend time with his wife and three adult daughters.
“My real qualification is my family,” he said, “I’m a good choice because of my faith in God, my love for my family and lots of hard work.”
Rozier, 52, is a relative newcomer to reside in Oxford, although he spent four years on the Ole Miss campus getting an undergrad business degree.
Born in Greenville, he earned his law degree from Mississippi College and worked chiefly in civil practice with five Jackson law firms before settling in Oxford in 2009.
He’s an approved mediator and past president of the Mississippi Municipal Judges Association. For 11 years was a municipal court judge in Jackson.
He and his wife have a daughter and a son, and they’re members of Oxford University United Methodist Church.
“I’m the only candidate with judicial experience,” Rozier says.
Each has his reason for seeking election as a circuit judge: Gregory says he will be able to “conduct the people’s business efficiently” and fairly; Levidiotis wants to end “the horrible gridlock the criminal docket presents in our district;” Rozier touts himself as “the only candidate with judicial experience and with experience in all the types of civil cases the circuit court hears.”
If one of them fails to gain a majority-plus-one on Nov. 2, the top two vote-getters will meet Nov. 23 in a runoff.
In a recent candidates forum, Gregory and Levidiotis agreed with the popular election of judges, while Rozier supports their appointment to be followed up by a popular vote to decide if a judge will be kept in office.
Asked if, as a judge, each would call on fellow attorneys to offer free civil legal services to people in need, Gregory and Rozier said they would work through the Mississippi Bar to encourage help when it’s needed. Levidiotis said he would be “reluctant to legislate from the bench” and just wants to be a judge, not a legislator.
Where they disagreed most strongly was on whether the 3rd Circuit Court District operates well and needs change.
Levidiotis was the most outspoken. “The system is broken down,” he said.
If elected, he said he would seek to change the way cases are scheduled and would urge a system like District 1, where the docket is set by judges, not the prosecutors.
Rozier was much more complimentary, saying the district “stands on the threshold of being premier in this state.”
He suggested greater use of technology for an electronic filing system similar to the federal courts.
Gregory pledged to work with court officials and attorneys to move the docket along, saying he’s handled large court dockets and understands “how it works.”
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
PATSY BRUMFIELD / NEMS Daily Journal