Qualifying ongoing for region’s judicial posts

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Election StockBy Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – At least one Northeast Mississippi circuit court judicial race will include an incumbent facing a challenger in November.

Qualifying began Jan. 1 for the nonpartisan races that will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. Judicial candidates are filing for circuit, chancery and Mississippi Court of Appeals positions.

In District 1 Circuit Court, Judge Paul S. Funderburk hasn’t qualified yet to serve another term but plans to seek re-election. Mantachie attorney Dennis Farris hasn’t officially qualified to challenge the three-term incumbent but has mailed qualifying papers.

Funderburk said preparation for recent cases has kept his mind off politics, but he will file qualifying papers soon. He also said his years of judicial experience should give voters confidence to support him for another term.

“If there’s anything that helps a person be a better judge, it’s experience,” he said Wednesday. “I plan on staying as long as my health will allow it.”

Farris wasn’t ready to discuss specifics about his candidacy.

“I’ll be happy to talk to you once it becomes official,” he said.

A second circuit court race has a challenger to qualify. In District 3 Circuit Court, incumbent Judge Robert Elliott has not qualified to seek another term. Efforts to reach him Wednesday by the Daily Journal were unsuccessful. Kelly Luther, an assistant district attorney for 18 years in that court’s district, has qualified to run.

“We’ve had a good judge in that district for a long time,” he said. “I think I can do a good job of deciding cases and applying law fairly to everyone.”

Statewide, all circuit and chancery court judge positions, which have four-year terms, will appear on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. Candidates have until May 9 to qualify. Also on the ballot throughout Northeast Mississippi will be candidates for Court of Appeals judge eight-year positions, elected to staggered terms.

Circuit courts hear felony criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits and appeals from county, justice and municipal courts and from administrative boards and commissions.

Chancery courts have jurisdiction over disputes in matters involving equity, domestic matters including adoptions and divorces, and challenges to constitutionality of state laws. Land records are filed in Chancery Court.

Multiple circuit and chancery court judges serve in each district but are elected in separate elections.

County courts rule over eminent domain proceedings and juvenile matters and share jurisdiction with circuit and chancery courts in some civil matters up to $200,000. County courts also handle non-capital felony cases transferred from circuit court.

The Court of Appeals hears cases assigned by the Supreme Court, ruling on issues when the law is already settled, but the facts are in dispute. The Court of Appeals has 10 judges – two from each of the five previous Congressional districts – each elected in staggered, separate elections.

Incumbent Court of Appeals judges in the region who have qualified for re-election are James “Jimmy” D. Maxwell II in District 1 and T. Kenneth “Kenny” Griffis of District 3.

On the county judge level, incumbent Lee County Court Judge Charlie Brett will face Reagan Wise for the region’s only county judge position.

Circuit court judges who have qualified to seek re-election without an opponent are Thomas Gardner III, “Jim” Seth Pounds and James L. Roberts Jr. in District 1; Andrew K. Howorth and John A. Gregory in District 3 and Lee Howard, James “Jim” T. Kitchens Jr. and Lee S. Coleman in District 16.

Incumbent Chancery Court judges without an opponent are Jacqueline Estes Mask, Michael Malski, Talmadge D. Littlejohn and John A. Hatcher in District 1; Dorthy W. Colom, Kenneth M. Burns and H.J. “Jim” Davidson Jr. in District 14 and Glenn Alderson and Robert Q. Whitwell in District 18.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com

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JUDICIAL RACES IN NORTHEAST MISSISSIPPI

Mississippi Court of Appeals

District 1 – Includes all of 19 counties and part of four others, including nearly all Northeast Mississippi counties.

District 3 – Includes 14 counties and part of five others, including Clay, Oktibbeha and Lowndes counties.

Circuit Court

District 1 – Alcorn, Tishomingo, Prentiss, Pontotoc, Lee, Itawamba and Monroe counties.

District 3 – Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Lafayette, Marshall, Tippah and Union counties.

District 16 – Clay, Oktibbeha, Lowndes and Noxubee counties.

Chancery Court Judges

District 1 – Alcorn, Tishomingo, Prentiss, Pontotoc, Lee, Itawamba, Monroe and Union counties.

District 14 – Chickasaw, Clay, Oktibbeha, Lowndes, Webster and Noxubee counties.

District 18 – Benton, Calhoun, Lafayette, Marshall and Tippah counties.

Lee County Court

One of 21 county courts in the state, the only one in Northeast Mississippi.

Salaries for 2015

Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals – $ 147,578

Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals – $144,827

Chancery and Circuit Court Judges – $128,042.50

Lee County Judge – $91,778.50