Judge hopefuls face off

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 14, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; What mix of experience and personal qualities should the ideal candidate for municipal judge have?

That was the question five candidates for the position addressed in speaking at Monday night’s candidate forum at Bowie’s Tavern.

The forum, the last in a series of three weekly candidate forums, was sponsored by the Natchez Business & Civic League and the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce.

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4Claude &uot;Buck&uot; Pintard said decades of experience in various areas of law, from criminal law to divorce law, give the background a city judge needs to have.

Pintard was elected county prosecuting attorney in 1960, serving four years in that position before serving as district attorney for District 6, which includes Adams County.

&uot;My belief is that Š any judge should be an individual with compassion, moral and ethical strength, legal experience and extensive knowledge of both the criminal law and human behavior,&uot; Pintard said. &uot;And I believe I can claim both of those.&uot;

Pintard said he would be aware of the dignity and worth of every person that comes before the court.

4In 24 years of practicing law in Natchez, said Patricia Fleming Dunmore, she has built a record of honesty, dignity and standing for what’s right.

&uot;I have the education, temperament and experience&uot; to be city judge, Dunmore said.

If elected, Dunmore said she would allow bonds on weekends, which would save the city money and protect defendants’ constitutional right to a reasonable bond.

Dunmore said she would also evaluate the court’s docket and scheduling system to see if rescheduling could save time and money. That, she said, could save overtime for officers testifying in court. She also supports alternative sentencing, such as anger management for those convicted of domestic violence.

4Twenty-seven years serving as municipal judge pro tem is one of the factors Jim C. Blough said makes him most qualified for the court’s full-time post.

&uot;I’m ready to move up to serve full time for you,&uot; said Blough, whose time as judge pro tem has spanned seven city administrations.

As judge pro tem, his duties include hearing cases the judge is out of town or would have a conflict of interest in a case.

&uot;The primary issue Š is who is going to step forward and protect the integrity of your municipal court,&uot; Blough said.

Blough said he has a record of protecting the rights of both sides in each case that comes before the court.

&uot;It’s also the judge’s responsibility to judge fairly,&uot; Blough said.

4Kevin Colbert said being a level-headed, good person with common sense and the ability to think on his feet are among the qualities that would serve him well as city judge.

A judge has to be able to detect when someone isn’t telling the truth, Colbert said, adding that 10 years practicing law &045; 70 to 80 percent of it criminal law &045; has honed his ability to do that.

Colbert said clients throughout Mississippi and Louisiana have called on him for representation &uot;because my reputation of doing a good job and a thorough job precedes me.&uot; He said he has also gained the trust of those for whom he has worked.

Colbert also said he would like to look at court rescheduling so those involved don’t have to wait so long for their cases to be heard.

4Lisa Jordan Dale pointed to six years of experience as public defender &045; and since 2002, as city prosecutor &045; as proof she’s ready to take on the position of municipal judge.

Those positions, she said, have also honed her skills in organizing a heavy caseload. As city prosecutor, she spends three days per week in municipal court. In addition, Dale said she has gained the respect of, and had open communication with, those she deals with in court, including police officers.

Dale said as judge she would work to reschedule court to increase efficiency and waste less time for those waiting for their cases to be heard.

She also said she would like to utilize work release programs more and would look into holding night court for those who work or attend school during the day.