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

September 17, 2009 10:09:00 AM

Jason Browne - [email protected]


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.