A three-man race has formed for District 3 justice court judge as incumbent Marty Haug is officially seeking reelection.
Haug, a Democrat who qualified Thursday, was first elected to the seat in 2015 and is seeking a third term. He has practiced law for nearly 20 years, operating a private practice in Starkville and also serving as Sturgis municipal judge.
In Mississippi, justice court judges are not required to have a law degree, but Haug — the only Oktibbeha County justice court judge who does — said it helps. Justice court handles misdemeanor cases that originate outside the Starkville city limits, small civil cases and first appearances for some felony cases before they head to circuit court.
“I’ve very much enjoyed my time as a judge,” Haug told The Dispatch. “I feel I have brought a level of fairness and an understanding of law to justice court, and I want to continue that. It’s important to have a lawyer (on the bench).
While Haug so far does not have a primary opponent, two Republicans — Brian Michael Lindner and Will McNeel — have qualified to run for the seat.
Lindner, who previously spoke to The Dispatch, is education minister at Meadowview Baptist Church, a chaplain for Starkville Police Department and owner of Brian Michael’s catering service.
McNeel, speaking to The Dispatch on Thursday, is a Winston County native who has lived in Starkville since 2019. He owns Gators PC and phone repair shops in Starkville, Columbus and West Point and holds a business administration degree from Mississippi State University.
He ran unsuccessfully for Winston County circuit court judge in 2019 but said his experience in court — mostly as a defendant in various civil cases — pushed him to try again in his new home county.
“I have a good grip on keeping people from taking advantage of the little guy,” he said. “I want to be fair and honest. … I don’t want a kangaroo court. I want a good court.”
That said, McNeel made a point to compliment Haug, before whom he has appeared for proceedings in justice court.
“I think he’s a fair judge,” McNeel said.
In the justice court races for Districts 1 and 2, respective incumbents Tony Boykin and Larnzy Carpenter are the only qualifiers so far.
Deadline to qualify is Feb. 1. Party primaries are set for Aug. 8, and the general election will be Nov. 7.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.
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