Mississippi ballot to present many choices for Court of Appeals

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 22, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Out of all the races on the upcoming ballot, the Mississippi Court of Appeals has the most choices. Candidates include: Larry Buffington, Virginia Carlton, Richard Grindstaff, Edward E. Patten Jr. and Scott Phillips.

Larry Buffington

Larry Buffington said he thought his experience would help him if he were elected to the court of appeals. He is a former prosecutor, practiced law for 14 years, and has 12 years of experience as a chancery court judge.

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&8220;The court of appeals reviews what other judges have done in a lower court,&8221; Buffington said. &8220;I think it is really important for someone who has been there to look at the cases.&8221;

His years of experience as a judge also allow him to be impartial, he said.

&8220;(Decisions) shouldn&8217;t be tied to any special interest groups,&8221; he said. &8220;Having been on the bench 12 years, you have no party ties or agendas to lead you on it.&8221;

Buffington said his family has been an influence on how he conducted his court and his life. He has also been involved in coaching and mentoring, he said.

&8220;As important as anything I do on the bench is to have a good influence on the youth that appear before me, and I hope I&8217;ve made headway,&8221; he said.

Virginia Carlton said she felt her experiences in the U.S. Army and the state legislature, among others, had shaped her.

&8220;I think I&8217;ll be effective,&8221; Carlton said. &8220;I&8217;ve been a public defender, prosecutor and army officer. My diverse experiences make me effective and give me the courage and integrity to enforce the law.&8221;

Carlton said she thought it was important judges not &8220;twist the law to their own benefits.&8221;

As a prosecutor, she specialized in crimes and violence against women and children, and she said she tried to make the criminal justice system work better for victims.

&8220;That has had a great impact on my life,&8221; she said. &8220;I have worked hard on those issues on the legislature as well.&8221;

Carlton said she believed in strict construction and adhering to the letter of the law.

&8220;I believe in standing up for what&8217;s right, and I believe I will take that same integrity to the bench,&8221; she said.

Richard Grindstaff

Richard Grindstaff has 20 years of experience in private practice law in all types of state courts.

&8220;I believe I can make decisions beneficial to Mississippi and make sure justice is served,&8221; Grindstaff said.

He said he hoped to make the court system run more efficiently and strengthen the criminal justice system.

&8220;I think a lot can be done to help speed up the system,&8221; he said. &8220;We can make sure technicalities are not the norm and bring common sense back into the judicial system.&8221;

Grindstaff said he wanted to make sure the court was fair to all people in all types of cases.

He also said he felt he had the necessary experience and temperament to be a good judge.

&8220;Unlike some of my opponents, I have no agenda,&8221; Grindstaff said. &8220;I think I can be fair to everybody.&8221;

Edward E. Patten Jr.

Edward E. Patten Jr. has worked in law for 29 years, serving as a prosecutor, city judge, youth court judge and chancery judge.

&8220;Those are years of making tough judicial decisions,&8221; Patten said. &8220;The court of appeals basically judges what other judges have done. It seems to me, people would want an experienced trial judge, experienced in making real decisions in the courtroom.&8221;

Patten said he thought his understanding of the dynamics of the system would help his judgment as to whether a trial judge did the right thing in a particular case.

Patten said he would help keep the court&8217;s caseload moving &8220;so people have closure on cases on appeal.&8221;

Patten said out of thousands of cases he has heard, only three decisions had been overturned by the Supreme Court.

&8220;If you compare that with what other judges have done, it&8217;s one of the lowest in the state,&8221; Patten said. &8220;It shows I have a sincere dedication to making sure the results are right and I follow the law consistently.&8221;

Scott Phillips

Scott Phillips has practiced law for 18 years, owning and operating a private law firm. He served in the Army National Guard and as attorney for the City of Columbia Planning Commission.

Phillips said he thought his current status of actively practicing law gave him an edge over other candidates.

&8220;I&8217;m the candidate who has 18 years experience, where others have been on the bench, not practicing law,&8221; Phillips said. &8220;I practice law every day.&8221;

Phillips said he encountered mostly chancery matters in his day-to-day work.

He said he thought his background set him apart, as well as his goals if he were to be elected Tuesday.

&8220;I hope to accomplish the timely disposal of matters that come before the court of appeals in a fair and impartial manner,&8221; he said.