The candidates for District 1 Justice Court Judge recently answered a short list of questions submitted by the Dispatch aimed at allowing them the opportunity to clarify their positions and reasons for seeking office. The candidates’ answers, in their own words, appear below.
A special election to fill Lowndes County Justice Court’s District 1 judge seat will be held Nov. 3.
1. How are you involved in the community (social organizations, church groups, etc.)?
Ronald Cooke: I am a member of Fairview Baptist Church, American Legion Post 69, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 4272, Caledonia Masonic Lodge #280, Board of Directors for Members 1st Community Federal Credit Union, past board member of the American Red Cross (Tenn-Tom Chapter) and Past Vice-President of the Mississippi Justice Court Judges Association.
Tony Cooper: I attend Caledonia United Methodist Church where I have served on the Board of Trustees. I am active with the Children and Youth Groups. I have coached soccer in the Caledonia Parks and Recreation league for the past six years. I have taught “Internet Safety” to the Caledonia YMCA summer day camp for the past three years and I have also been a mentor to graduating seniors at Caledonia High School and assisted them with their exit projects.
Chris Hemphill: My family and I presently attend New Salem Baptist Church in Caledonia. I am a past board member of the Red Cross. For the last seven years I have coached baseball and soccer at Ola J. Pickett park. I am a member of both the Caledonia Soccer Board and the Caledonia Baseball/Softball Board.
Carolyn Robertson: I have been a member of Toastmaster Int, ABWA, a member of the East Columbus Church of Christ for 35 years, a wife of 35 years to the late Judge Phillip Owen Robertson, mother of two beautiful girls, Brandie Harris of Tupelo, Andrea Hinton of Brandon, and grandmother of five beautiful grandchildren. I have been a designer, manufacturer and installer of draperies and accessories, a portrait painter and freelance artist, auctioneer and now a Realtor/Auctioneer with Crye – Leike Properties Unlimited. As you can see I have a personal obligation and investment in Lowndes county. I desire to see that our county continues to be a decent place for our children, grandchildren and yours to grow up in
Michael Tate Sr.: I am a member of American Legion, VFW, and am active in my church, Caledonia UPC.
2. Do you have political aspirations beyond being a Justice Court judge?
RC: Definitely not! I believe that being elected as a Justice Court Judge by the voters in your respective county is a pretty high accomplishment in itself.
TC: My only political aspiration at this time is to be Justice Court Judge for District 1 and to do the job well.
CH: No, not at this time because I have never considered myself a politician. As interim Justice Court Judge as appointed by the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors, I am thoroughly enjoying what I do and hope to continue serving the people of Lowndes County in that capacity for many years to come.
CR: I desire the office of Justice Court to maintain the same integrity and compassion my late husband had as Justice Court Judge. This was a court designed for the people by the people and I would like for it to remain so. I wont say that I would not run for any other office in the future. I will say, however, in this day and time we find ourselves in, I will do all that I can to make a difference for the betterment of society rather than do anything that would take the rights given to us by our forefathers away from us, whether it be in a political forum or just in every day life. I will promise to be fair and evenhanded in my decisions and serve you with compassion.
MT: At this time, none. I don’t foresee anything that would make me go beyond this.
3. What is your faith and what, if any, role will it play in your judging decisions?
RC: I am a Christian and servant of God. From my previous experience as a Justice Court Judge, I realized early on that sometimes Justice needed to be tempered with mercy. In making judicial decisions, I would use the training provided by the Mississippi Judicial College, a good common sense attitude and, most importantly, a lot of prayer.
TC: I am of the Methodist faith and our discipline teaches four doctrinal
guidelines: Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. These guidelines are followed on every consideration within the church. These same
guidelines, when applied to evidence presentation and combined with my experiences, can and will lead to impartial trial decisions.
CH: I am of the Christian faith and I pray for wisdom and guidance
before I take the bench each day.
CR: I am a woman that has a strong sense of right and wrong grounded in the teachings of the creator through his word, thereby, giving me what I believe to be a strong moral and ethical compass. I strive to be more Christ-like with each day that I am blessed with. I am a Christian first and foremost.
MT: Christian. (I plan to) treat people fairly and try to be wise in any decisions I make.
4. Why should people care who is elected to Justice Court?
RC: With respect to Justice Court, I would think that a person would want to elect someone with integrity and a sense of fairness who also possesses the experience necessary to start performing the duties of that office. People should genuinely care about who is elected to any public office. The freedom to vote should not be taken lightly, and neither should a person’s vote for a particular candidate be taken lightly.
TC: People need to care who gets elected as Justice Court Judge because Justice Court can potentially have an effect on everyone. Justice Court provides services in such a manner as to:
1) Promote access to justice by issuing and signing warrants
2) Conduct preliminary and bond hearings
3) Rule on cases in a timely manner
4) Utilize public resources efficiently and effectively such that it demonstrates accountability and upholds public trust and confidence.
CH: The civil jurisdiction of Justice Court is $3500. That means disagreements involving amounts up to $3500 are (handled) there. That is a substantial amount of money and citizens should want someone who has been trained in civil law, who has over 17 years of experience as a lawyer, and who has represented citizens who have filed lawsuits and those who have had lawsuits filed against them for money damages. A judge with these qualifications knows and understands the law that applies, can see both sides of the disagreement and then make an informed decision based on the law and facts. A Justice Court Judge also decides misdemeanor criminal matters that happen outside of city limits. A majority of citizens will never be involved in a criminal matter, but when they are, they should want a judge that has been well trained in the law, is willing to listen to both sides of the matter, and make an unbiased decision.
CR: In this time of uncertainty we need to rely on simple truths. Our laws are a group of rules adopted for the purpose of making people conform to the behavior approved by the majority of our fellow man; for without it we would have chaos.
MT: We need someone who can be available anytime, and I’m the only candidate who doesn’t have any outside influences and interests that would interfere with being available or rendering decisions.
5. What, in your opinion, is the mission of a Justice Court judge?
RC: A Justice Court Judge represents the court in the respective county in which the Judge serves. The Judge does not represent any individual or particular group of people or segment of society from that county. The Judge’s responsibility is to be an impartial mediator and trier of fact for all people coming before his/her court. As such, the Judge should be available at all times not only to the public
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.