Article Comment 

Judge’s widow, four others qualify for justice court seat


Jason Browne



The final ballot is set for a special election to fill Lowndes County Justice Court''s District 1 judge seat. 


Five Lowndes County citizens will vie for the spot vacated by the late Phillip Robertson, who passed away Nov. 9, 2008. The special election will be held Nov. 3. 


Attorney Chris Hemphill has held the seat in the interim. He is one of the five candidates who will run in the special election. 


Hemphill has been an attorney for 17 years and has lived in Lowndes County as long. 


His law degree and time as a licensed attorney, in addition to his interim service on the bench, qualify him to hold the position for the remainder of the term, Hemphill said. 


"I''m trained in civil and criminal, law and I''ve dealt with both," said Hemphill. 


This will be Hemphill''s second attempt at a Justice Court seat. 


Michael Tate Sr. is a semi-retired rental property owner and manager. He has lived in Lowndes County all his life. 


Tate believes he can do the best job as Justice Court judge due to his impartiality. 


"I''m the only candidate with no outside influences or interests," said Tate. 


Carolyn Robertson, Phillip Robertson''s widow, is a real estate agent and auctioneer. She has lived in Lowndes County for 40 years. 


The experience she gained while supporting her husband through every level of law enforcement has given her an exceptional understanding of the law, Carolyn Robertson said. 


"I have a good moral compass, as well as what applies to the law. I would like for (Justice Court) to remain a court for the people, by the people," she said. 


Ronald C. Cooke is a retired Justice Court judge who was elected in a special election in 1994 after Judge James Fannon was elected mayor of Columbus.  


Cooke was elected to two more terms following the special election. He now operates an online defensive driving course. 


Cooke, who has lived in Lowndes County for 24 years, said his experience on the bench makes him the top-qualified candidate. 


"I''ve still got a lot of years, and there''s a lot I could offer to the citizens," said Cooke, who applied for the position when Robertson died. In a 2-3 vote, supervisors decided not to appoint Cooke, instead appointing Hemphill to the seat until the special election. 


Tony R. Cooper, a criminal investigator with the Lowndes County Sheriff''s Office has 23 years of law enforcement experience. He has lived in Lowndes County and worked for the LCSO for 12 years. 


Cooper touts his experience in every facet of law enforcement in cities from Columbus to Jackson to Memphis as his strongest qualification for Justice Court judge. 


"I want to take the next step in law enforcement. From patrol officer to detective and the next step up is to judge. I''m ready to go from working cases to judging cases," said Cooper.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment kimberly commented at 9/17/2009 12:00:00 PM:

First off why would people vote for someone to run for judge when you have no experience, law school, or for that matter anything to do with the system? The decision made by a judge is very important and most definitely life changing for many people. For that reason alone the elected person should be someone who is knowledgeable of specific laws with expertise in the field. Just because a seat is open does not mean unqualified people should be able to run for office.


Article Comment Agree with Kimberly commented at 9/17/2009 12:43:00 PM:

Bravo, Kimberly! I too have NEVER understood how just anybody who thought being a judge sounded like a plan could run for office AND be elected and serve!! If you have ever had to deal with a matter in Justice Court and some of the "judges" that have served there, well, let's just say you would share the same opionin. Why are there not strict qualifications before you can serve as a Judge like for starters - know the law?!


Article Comment Dixie commented at 9/17/2009 7:59:00 PM:

Why would a civil lawyer be qualified as a criminal judge? Because they went to law school and had a few courses in criminal law does not make them effective as a criminal judge. To know the law from the inside, by enforcing it, should give a candidate an edge up on justice court I feel. I would rather have someone in office that has actually been in the trenches than someone that has sat in an office for judge representing my district.


Article Comment MaryD commented at 9/17/2009 9:50:00 PM:

It is my understanding that Mr. Hemphill was selected to serve as interim judge in District 1 because he was the only applicant who actually lived within the district that had courtroom experience(out of 18 applicants only 4 lived within the district) and Harry Sanders wanted to keep the judge from within the district NOT because of Mr. Hemphill's law experience. It is also my understanding that Mr. Hemphill is frequently unavailable to sign and issue warrants because of his primary job in which he is the county attorney for Noxubee County. Mr.Tate was friends with Judge Robertson...ok, what else have you got? Ms. Carolyn is a very nice person, but using her "experience" that she has quoted means that anybody can do their spouse's job because they have been supportive. I think not. Mr. Tate can cite the same qualifications. The previous Justice Court Judge Ron Cooke left the bench in order to run for another office. He applied when Judge Robertson died but was passed over by his own folks. Mr. Cooper has 23 years of law enforcement experience. He probably has more courtroom experience than the lawyer, Mr. Hemphill.
As far as the argument that only lawyers should be qualified to run for judge, well that is bogus. Heck, you don't even have to be a lawyer to run for president, congress, governor, legislature, and many other offices. For the people, by the people.


Article Comment citizen commented at 9/18/2009 10:11:00 AM:

I don't think a law enforcement person that can't even do his own job well should be allowed to judge other people. We also need someone who is willing to devote 24/7 to this job.. not a part timer.


Article Comment Ima Citizen Too commented at 9/18/2009 10:27:00 AM:

To make a statement that a person cant even do their job, is just plain subjective and obviously is not based on the facts. A law enforcement officer has worked the trenches and has worked from the ground up. He would have the very best view from the trenches to the courtroom. If need be, I want to stand in front of someone who has life experience not just book experience


Article Comment MaryD commented at 9/18/2009 1:53:00 PM:

In response to Citizen: Can u offer specifics please, as I would like to make an informed decision when I go to the polls on November 3. Tony Cooper is the only name I know because he has been on the news alot. Also, if anyone would like to post pros or cons for each candidate, I am sure I am not the only one who would be interested.


Article Comment MaryD commented at 9/18/2009 3:13:00 PM:

In response to Citizen: Can u offer specifics please, as I would like to make an informed decision when I go to the polls on November 3. Tony Cooper is the only name I know because he has been on the news alot. Also, if anyone would like to post pros or cons for each candidate, I am sure I am not the only one who would be interested.


Article Comment Dixie commented at 9/18/2009 9:26:00 PM:

I know Tony Cooper's name from seeing it in the paper all the time in the crime write ups. Seems to me he is doing his job, and well.

I've never heard of the Tate guy.

Mrs. Robertson is known from her businesses, and that she was married to Judge Robertson.

Ron Cooke was a judge at one time, but he has ran for everything but dog-catcher I think. And who knows how he makes a living.

I know that Hemphill is the judge now but he's also a lawyer. Is a judge a full time postition? Would he still be able to keep a law practice and be a judge too?


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