January 4, 2018 10:12:55 AM
Two Starkville candidates who are seeking judicial seats on the Mississippi 14th Chancery District court are weighing in with their goals and legal backgrounds.
Paula Drungole-Ellis and Lee Ann Turner, two local attorneys, are seeking seats on the court. Both candidates qualified for the non-partisan election, which will be held on Nov. 6, on Tuesday.
Three judges -- Kenneth Burns, Dorothy W. Colom and H.J. Davidson -- preside over the 14th Chancery District Court. All have announced their intention to retire at the end of the present term, leaving three seats for candidates to fill.
The 14th Chancery District serves Chickasaw, Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee, Oktibbeha and Webster counties.
Drungole-Ellis is seeking the subdistrict 14-3 seat, which Colom currently holds. She's served as Oktibbeha County's youth court judge for nine years, after Colom appointed her to the position. She also has 32 years of experience as an attorney and has handled cases in all state courts and in federal court.
She said that experience, along with her work as a youth court judge, has bred a familiarity with chancery court that would be beneficial if she's elected.
"I have an extensive background in chancery court practice," she said. "As the youth court judge, I've had the opportunity to preside over cases that are somewhat similar to those that happen in chancery court. I have the experience to be a chancery court judge because I work in the youth court division in chancery court."
If elected, Drungole-Ellis said, she plans to preside over the court with fairness and integrity.
Drungole-Ellis will be running against Roy A. Perkins, who currently serves as Starkville's Ward 6 aldermen and has practiced law for 29 years.
Turner is seeking the subdistrict 14-1 seat, which Burns currently holds. She's running for the seat against Gene Barton, an Okolona attorney. The Dispatch couldn't reach Barton for comment.
Turner's been a licensed attorney for 22 years, and much of her experience has focused on chancery-related issues. She started her career in child support enforcement for the state of Mississippi for a year, then worked for six years as a staff attorney for the 14th Chancery District.
Since then, she's worked in private practice, but has focused almost exclusively on family law, which falls under chancery court's jurisdiction.
Turner said she's been qualified as a guardian ad litem since 2008 and has been appointed many times to represent children in cases of abuse or financial cases when a child needs representation. In 2009, Colom appointed her to be the special master for chancery court for commitment in drug and alcohol and mental health cases. She's also a referee for youth court.
"I've always had an interest in running for chancery judge at some point," Turner said. "We have three very good judges now, and I'd never run against any of them. We have a very unique situation now where all three are retiring at the same time, so that creates some opportunities for people to run."
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