Candidates for the three judicial positions for the 16th Circuit Court District shared their views on what the right judge can do at a recent Starkville TEA Party meeting.
On Nov. 2, voters in the 16th Circuit Court District, consisting of Oktibbeha, Lowndes, Noxubee and Clay counties, will go to the polls to select three circuit court judges.
Place 1 candidates include Incumbent Judge Jim Kitchens and Attorney William Starks.
Place 2 candidate Lee Howard is unopposed.
And the newly-created Place 3 candidates are Lee Coleman, Bob Marshall and Nebra Porter.
All candidates were given an opportunity to address the group and participate in a question and answer forum.
Of the candidates, Kitchens, Starks and Coleman attended the meeting to state their position and share what they hope to achieve if given the opportunity to serve the District.
William Starks grew up in Starkville and graduated from Mississippi State University before graduating from law school at Mississippi College.
Starks said he feels he can bring fairness, integrity and innovation to the judgeship.
“The judiciary is one of the three major branches of the government and spends less than one percent of the total budget,” Starks said. “One way I can help is to work with the drug offenders. Many times we arrest them and give them little supervision. I think we need a drug court where first offenders, simple possession, receive an assessment that might include rehabilitation, training and education to help them to not relapse.”
Starks said it would probably pay for itself if the program can get offenders back on track and they are able to work and pay taxes.
“Some judges think their job is to put people in the penitentiary,” Starks said. “I think that if we can save someone from repeating the same cycle over and over again, it will save money.”
Starks said he also thinks the use of technology can speed the system up by using electronic filing. “The Golden Triangle has many complex issues and everything we can do to use common sense to make our court system better is good,” Starks said.
Incumbent Judge Jim Kitchens has served as the 16th District Circuit Court Judge fir Place 1 for eight years. He is from Caledonia, and moved to Starkville in 1981, living in the Sessems dorm and Rosehill Apartments while attending MSU. He graduated with an economic degree from MSU and a law degree from Mississippi College.
“I have enjoyed the many things I get to do as your District Court Judge,” Kitchens said. “I am involved in a variety of service clubs in the Golden Triangle and love to make it a better place for all of our citizens.”
Kitchens said over the course of his eight years of service, he has tried 150 jury trials, with only four decisions reversed. He has also handled about 10,000 non-jury cases, with only 11 decisions reversed.
“My record on appeals is excellent,” Kitchens said. “I try my best to be careful.”
Right now, Kitchens said they have 118 cases on the docket in Oktibbeha County. In addressing the rehabilitation issue brought up by Starks, Kitchens said the program can be expensive to set up.
“Wanting to rehab drug offenders is very expensive, usually hiring four more people and counseling for addicts,” Kitchens said. “I am not the best person for this because I think if you don’t do anything, you don’t get addicted.”
Kitchens said he uses existing programs such as Community Counseling, who know all the programs and the best places to go to get help for people without incurring additional costs to the taxpayer.
Lee Coleman is running for the newly-created Place 3 position. He said a fair and impartial trial is all that a candidate can promise in this position.
“That is really about all that you can say,” Coleman said. “A lot of folks really need more than a fair trial, but that is all I am able to promise them. “
Coleman said he supported himself through his senior year of high school when his parents moved back to West Point.
“Hard work taught me the value of a dollar and how to be independent and self-reliant,” Coleman said. “There are going to be people in court who are facing tough economic times and need someone who can understand that. I am grateful for the opportunities I had to learn to work and take care of myself.”
Coleman is a graduate of The University of Mississippi, graduating 11th in a class of 90.
(After graduation) I went back to West Point and felt a moral obligation to go into public service to pay the tax payers back for the academic scholarships I received to go to school,” Coleman said.
Porter declined an invitation to speak. She is running for the Place 3 position. Marshall was attending a funeral and could not attend. He is also running for the Place 3 position.
The Daily News will be publishing other information about these candidates this week.