November 5, 2016 10:32:58 PM
Editors note: The campaigns and elections class at Mississippi University for Women compiled the information published below on the candidates for Mississippi Supreme Court and U.S. House District 1 as part of its Nonpartisan Voter Guide. The Dispatch compiled the below information on the Court of Appeals race.
Mississippi Supreme Court, District 3, Place 1
John Brady, a defense lawyer from Columbus, earned his juris doctorate from Mississippi College School of Law in 1994. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two teenage girls, Rachael and Hannah.
According to Brady, he has been endorsed by former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who cited Brady's experience and "commitment to fairness" as reasons for his support. Brady's experience dates back to his time at the Mississippi College Law School, where he led the School Review and was president of the Student Bar Association. He has served on the Mississippi Bar Executive Committee and as Bar Commissioner. He is a past president of the Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association and a member of the Defense Research Institute. As an attorney, Mr. Brady has defended businesses and government entities against lawsuits before the appellate courts, including Mississippi's Supreme Court and the fifth US Circuit Court.
In a press release, Brady said, "We must correctly interpret and apply the laws without attempting to fit laws into a specific case for a specific outcome." He added, "In 2016, we have seen and will see several changes on our Supreme Court. I want to continue the legacy of congeniality and professionalism that has been a hallmark of the Chief Justice's court." He concluded by saying "The Mississippi Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of litigated matters in Mississippi. I want to make sure that all parties get a fair and expeditious trial and review by correctly interpreting the Mississippi Constitution and the laws enacted by legislative authority, without infringing upon the legislature's role as lawmakers."
Judge Bobby Chamberlin is an experienced lawyer and former Mississippi Senator. Judge Chamberlin is a life-long resident of north Mississippi. Mr. Chamberlin and his wife, Kim, have one child, William.
Judge Chamberlin is no stranger to the field of law or the courtroom. Mr. Chamberlin earned a law degree from the University of Mississippi. Afterward, he worked for what is now known as the Austin Law Firm in Hernando before founding Chamberlin-Nowak, P.C. He served as Municipal Prosecutor for the City of Horn Lake, as a Special Master in Chancery Court, and--for eight years--as Municipal Court Judge for the City of Hernando. Elected to the Mississippi State Senate in 1999, he served as Vice-Chairman of the Universities and Colleges Committee as well as Chairman of the Elections Committee. Appointed to the Circuit Court by Governor Barbour in 2004, Judge Chamberlin now sits on the 17th Circuit Court District of Mississippi. Judge Chamberlin co-founded the 17th Circuit Court District Drug Court alongside current Supreme Court Justice, Ann Lamar.
When asked about obstacles to justice, Judge Chamberlin emphasized fairness and efficiency. He said everyone, including "people who don't have the means" should have access to the courts. In our interview, he referred to the MS Supreme Court's current effort to revise rules as a contribution to criminal justice reform, saying that he thinks the proposed changes will "streamline" justice for all. According to the proposal, the rules are meant "to provide for the just and speedy determination of criminal proceedings, to secure simplicity . . . and fairness . . . [and] to eliminate unjustifiable delay and expense . . . ." Judge Chamberlin states "I am running for Mississippi Supreme Court because I believe that everyone, when they step into a courtroom, is entitled to a fair and impartial playing field and should be treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve."
Mr. Steve Crampton is a high-profile legal advocate for Christian and conservative values. Having previously lived in Texas and Tennessee, he now resides in Tupelo, Mississippi. He and his wife, Shelley, have seven children. In 2014, they established a private law firm in Tupelo, Crampton Legal Services, specializing in civil rights and other complex litigation.
Mr. Crampton holds leadership posts with Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association, and the Thomas More Society--all Christian legal groups. His expertise is the application of constitutional law in defense of religious expression and pro-life causes. He has worked to persuade courts that school vouchers may be used for Christian school tuition and led legal defenses of prayer in school. When groups challenged Mississippi's "personhood" initiative, he persuaded the MS Court to let a vote take place. He has presented arguments to judges at each level of the state and federal court systems, including the US Supreme Court.
Mr. Crampton would bring to the bench an expansive interpretation of the right to religious expression, a minimalist interpretation of the establishment clause separating church and state, and a belief in the prerogatives of states to resist federal court rulings. For example, he has defended Alabama's recently suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore, who instructed marriage clerks to disregard the US Supreme Court decision permitting gay marriage.
James T. 'Jim' Kitchens Jr.
Judge James T. Kitchens, Jr.--not to be confused with sitting Justice James W. Kitchens--lives in Caledonia with his wife, Jo Ann. He is a Circuit Judge for Lowndes County with years of experience in the several layers of Mississippi's legal system.
Before winning election to the Circuit Court in 2002, Judge Kitchens worked as Lowndes County's Assistant District Attorney. In 2007, Judge Kitchens was Vice Chair of a committee formed by the legislature to provide recommendations on improving the Justice Court. In 2008, he joined a commission created by the Mississippi Supreme Court to evaluate model jury instructions and suggest improvements. As far back as 1992, Mr. Kitchens served on a committee of judges and attorneys helping the Mississippi Judicial College revise its Model Jury Instructions to render legal instructions more comprehensible to jurors. One of his earliest experiences with Mississippi's courts was as law clerk for the Chief Justice of the state's Supreme Court.
In our interview, Judge Kitchens emphasized the importance of a fair hearing. He says his is a record of providing "the same amount of care and concern" to every litigant. When asked about obstacles to justice, he cited poverty as a barrier in civil matters and, in criminal cases, the amount of cases that clog the courts and hinder "speedy justice." Kitchens also spoke about his strategy for hiring his law clerks. His goal would be to recruit a diverse "cross-section" of top-notch law school students who can work well together. He noted that respect and collegiality would be important in his relationships with litigants, clerks, and the other Justices.
US House of Representatives, District 1
Trent Kelly, Republican
Congressman Trent Kelly is a Republican incumbent seeking re-election. Mr. Kelly lives in Saltillo with his wife, Sheila, and their three children, John Forrest, Morgan, and Jackson.
Kelly's experience includes 30 years in the Mississippi National Guard as an engineer, deploying as a Major to Iraq in 2005, and deploying as Lieutenant Colonel from 2009-2010. He received two Bronze Stars and numerous other awards for his dedication and service. Kelly, an attorney, also has experience maintaining a private law firm in Saltillo, as well as serving as the Tupelo Prosecutor, Forfeiture Attorney for North Mississippi Narcotics Unit, and District Attorney for the 1st Circuit Judicial District.
Since winning the special election in 2015, Representative Kelly has served on the Agriculture and Small Business committees. In our interview, Kelly stated his newest endeavor, if re-elected, would be serving on the Armed Services Committee in addition to the Agriculture Committee. Kelly's views on National Defense and Veterans, Agriculture, the Economy and Jobs, Energy, Government Reform Healthcare, the Second Amendment, Social Security and Medicare are published on his website. He also publishes a weekly newsletter to keep in touch as well as keep the public informed.
In our interview, Mr. Trent Kelly noted Sonny Montgomery as a political role model because of his "availability," "grassroots," and "friendly attitude." Kelly hopes his service as Congressman and dedication to touching base with the public through town hall, rotary, and other public events will earn him re-election. Kelly stated "we all have dreams; the special election was a larger opportunity to help, fulfilling my dream," explaining that his motivation in running for re-election is rooted in the continuing desire to help and represent the citizens of Mississippi.
Jacob Owens, Democrat
Mr. Jacob Owens, of the Democratic Party, is a resident of Oxford. He graduated from Mississippi State University in 2014 with a Bachelor's Degree in architecture and is presently working at an architecture firm in Tupelo as an intern architect. This is his first time running for political office.
According to the state's Democratic Party Chairman, Owens and other candidates receive little aid from the state party besides lists of potential donors and voters ("Challenger largely absent"). Instead of focusing on raising funds for campaigning, Owens has focused his efforts on voter registration, education about voter ID laws, and turnout.
During our interview, Mr. Owens argued that his experience prepares him to meet the challenges of governance by involving constituents and taking advantage of their expertise in different areas of policy. Citing his work at JBHM Architecture, he noted, "When a client wants something out of the ordinary, I have to get on the phone . . . [and] meet with as many people as possible . . . to understand what the client needs and how I can achieve that . . . on time and on budget." He went on to mention Republican Justin Amash as a model for "reaching out" to constituents.
In fact, Mr. Owens adopted many center-left positions, blending lines typical of both the Republican and Democratic parties. For example, Mr. Owens thinks minimum wage is too low but supports comprehensive welfare reform aimed at stopping abuse of the system and getting folks back to work. He said that regulations need a close review because of the effects they have on new or small businesses. He also wants to focus on the "crumbling roads and bridges that need national attention." The reason for Mr. Owens' attachment to the Democratic label appears to be the Party's general commitment to social change and policy reform that benefits people who have traditionally been left out. In this vein, Mr. Owens said he hopes to prioritize the future and address poverty.
Cathy L. Toole, Reform
Ms. Cathy L. Toole, of the Reform Party, is a resident of Biloxi. Her interest in agricultural policy is evident from past candidacies for Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, though she won neither race.
Little information about Ms. Toole's policy positions is publicly available, and we were unable to reach her for comment. Research into news coverage of events attended by her competitors in past races turned up no information on Ms. Toole. Voters may wish to view a 2011 candidate forum held by Mississippi State University Extension, to which Ms. Toole was invited as a candidate for Agricultural Commissioner.
Nationally, the Reform party favors fiscal conservatism and increased accountability for abuses of government power. It is hard to know the extent to which Ms. Toole agrees with the positions of her party's national organization. The only readily available public records indicate that she does have personal experience attempting to hold the federal government accountable for its commitments to individual citizens. Ms. Toole has repeatedly filed suit against the US Department of Veterans Affairs seeking compensation related to her husband's death. She claims that his death in 1997 was related to a 1958 basic training accident from his service in the US Army, when he was hit in the head by a rifle.
Chase Wilson, Libertarian
Mr. Chase F. Wilson, originally from Olive Branch, is a physics graduate student at the University of Southern Mississippi. According to his campaign website he wants to "restore liberty to the American people" and "use common sense to solve present and future problems."
This is Wilson's first time running for public office; however, he serve as the President of a student organization at the University of Southern Mississippi, Young Americans for Liberty.
We were unable to reach Mr. Wilson for this guide, but he has taken many public positions on his Facebook page. Based on his posts there, Wilson wants to gradually phase out the Department of Education and use the money for "tax savings, better paid teachers, and adequately funded schools." He also wants to restore an expansive application of the second amendment and believes that people should own guns without permission from the government. He is against "stop and frisk [policing tactics], infringement of gun rights, increasing taxes, an unbalanced budget, safe spaces, warrantless searches and seizures, infringement of free speech, crony capitalism, over-incarceration, or systematic racism." Finally, he has stated that he wants to end the war on drugs. He adopts the position of the Libertarian party that the war on drugs is overpopulating our prisons and thinks that people have the right to grow, produce, and buy recreational drugs like marijuana.
Mississippi Court of Appeals, District 3, Position 1
Edward Hannan, 58, is the senior Madison County judge with 19 years of judicial experience. Hannan, a native of Grenada, has been a Madison County resident since 1983. He has been married to his wife Cindy for 38 years, and they have three grown daughters.
Hannan serves as the senior county court judge for Madison County. He was elected to the position in 2006 and re-elected in 2010 and 2014. Hannan also serves as the special circuit judge for Felony Drug Court in Madison and Rankin counties as appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2011 and reappointed in 2014. He presides as special circuit judge and acting circuit judge in felony and civil cases and presides over Youth Court and the Special Court of Eminent Domain.
Hannan's other experience includes acting as the municipal judge for the city of Madison from 1997 to 2006, presiding over criminal and civil cases. Prior to his judgeships, Hannan practiced law for 25 years after receiving his undergraduate degree (B.P.A. in 1979) and juris doctorate degree (1982) from the University of Mississippi, where he was a member of the law review.
Hannan also chairs the Conference of County Court Judges, is a member of the Judicial Advisory Study Committee, has coached over 45 youth sports teams and is a member of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church where he serves as the Boy Scouts of America committee chairman and merit badge counselor.
Hannan said, if elected, his goal "is to bring judicial trial experience to the court of appeals. Presently there are no circuit or county court judges on that entire 10-member court. These are the judges that try the jury cases - criminal and civil. We need that judicial trial experience on the Court of Appeals very badly. Experience matters."
Jack Wilson was appointed to the Mississippi Court of Appeals in 2015 by Gov. Phil Bryant. In the 16 months he's been on the court, he said he's written more than 90 opinions and voted in more than 600 cases.
The Mississippi native grew up in Jackson and went to high school in Tupelo. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 2004, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review. Since then, he has worked at law firms in multiple states, specializing in civil and appellate law. He has represented clients in both state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
For a year after law school, he worked for Judge Gerald Tjoflat at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. From 2005-09, he worked for Mayer Brown LLP, a law firm in Washington, D.C., which specialized in appellate litigation and Supreme Court cases, he said.
In 2009, Wilson moved back to Mississippi where he worked for Bradley Arant Boult Cummings in Jackson. Wilson also served as Bryant's lead legal counsel from 2012-14.
In an interview with The Dispatch, Wilson said he believes his experience and his ability to write persuasive appellate opinions qualifies him to remain on the court.
"What we're there for is to make sure that the law's applied safely and correctly in laws across the state, and I think I've done a good job of that for the last year and a half," Wilson said. "I've written more majority opinions than any other judge on our court since I've been there, and I think that reflects that I've been able to have an impact."
Wilson lives in Madison with his wife, Amanda, and their three children, 5-year-old twins Emily and Jack, and 2-year-old Henry.
Dow Yoder lives in Ridgeland with his wife, Melinda. He represents private parties in a solo law practice and has done so since 2015.
Yoder has served on the Mississippi Supreme Court Mediation Rules Committee and the Ethics Committee and Lawyers/Judges Assistance Committees of the Mississippi Bar.
Yoder has also worked as an assistant district attorney for Madison and Rankin counties. Yoder prosecuted a number of felony criminal cases in that position since 2008.
In 2009, Yoder was named a special assistant United States attorney. In that position, he helped the U.S. Department of Justice prosecute white-collar criminal fraud in the Southern District of Mississippi.
In 2014, Yoder led a panel discussion for prosecutors throughout Mississippi on the potential impact of House Bill 585, a criminal justice reform bill that took effect a year later.
Yoder is a graduate of Mississippi College and the University of Mississippi School of Law.
He's also served as an intern law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr., and has clerked for Mississippi Supreme Court Judge Mike Mills.
Yoder could not be reached for comment.