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On the Ballot: Circuit Court Judge Kelly Luther to Face Holly Springs Attorney

By Alyssa Schnugg
News Editor

This week, HottyToddy.com will be running feature stories of local candidates in the upcoming Nov. 6 elections.

Lafayette County Courthouse is home to the Third Circuit Judicial District. Photo by Talbert Toole.

On Nov. 6, residents served by the Third Circuit Judicial District Court will cast their votes to select one Circuit Court judge to serve in the Post 2 seat, currently held by Judge Kelly Luther, who is seeking re-election.

The Third Circuit Judicial District Court serves seven counties including Lafayette, Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Marshall, Tippah, and Union counties.

Circuit Courts are where felony criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits occur as well as appeals from the lower county, justice and municipal courts and from administrative boards and commissions such as the Workers’ Compensation Commission and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.

Circuit Court judges are selected in non-partisan elections to serve four-year terms.

In Lafayette County, there are three judicial seats. Current sitting Judges are Andrew Howorth, John Gregory and Luther.

Luther is the only judge in the Third Circuit who has an opponent in the Nov. 6 election. Shirley C. Byers, a Holly Springs attorney, is running against Luther for the second time.

Luther and Byers went head-to-head in 2014. Luther won the election bringing in 76 percent of the votes.

Howorth and Gregory are running unopposed in November.

Kelly Luther
Incumbent Luther lives in Tippah County and lived most of his life in Pontotoc. He received his undergraduate degree in 1986 from the University of Mississippi and his law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1989. He completed his coursework for Judge Training at The National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada when he first took office in January 2015.

Circuit Court Judge Kelly Luther Photo provided.

Prior to being elected as Circuit Court Judge, he was an assistant district attorney prosecuting felony criminal cases in the Third Circuit Judicial District. He served as the elected County Prosecuting Attorney for Pontotoc County from 1992 through 1996. From January 1991 until November 1992, he served as the City Judge for the City of Pontotoc.

Luther says his experience working in the Third Circuit District for the last 23 years puts him ahead of his opponent.

“The vast majority of the Circuit Courts workload is handling the criminal docket and my career has been spent in that area of the law since first becoming a judge back in January of 1991,” he said. “There is simply no substitute for experience.”

If re-elected, Luther says his primary goal is to expand the Drug Court program. The Drug Court was held only in Lafayette County since it began several years ago; however, Luther was able to start a Drug Court program recently in Tippah County. The two programs now have more than 300 participants who will spend about three years in the program working on beating drug addiction and ultimately, have their criminal charges set aside if completed successfully.

“Drug Court participants have to report to Oxford or Ripley an average of about two times a week for random drug testing,” Luther said. “Our District is so large that many people who would benefit from the program simply do not have the means to make that trip. I hope to work with churches and civic organization to help arrange transportation for those people who cannot participate in Drug Court because of transportation issues.”

Luther says working with the Drug Court program has allowed him to finally feel he is making a difference in the lives of the participants and the community overall.

“I would encourage the public to visit a Drug Court session and I believe that they will be impressed with the work being done,” Luther said.

Luther has two adult children, Lydia and Levi.

Shirley Byers

Shirley C. Byers

Byers has a private practice in Holly Springs. Her experience includes serving as the elected prosecuting attorney for Marshall County and the city attorney for Holly Springs. She has also worked as a public defender, a plaintiff’s attorney and in corporate law.

She served one term as a circuit court judge in the mid-1990s in the Fourth Circuit Court District. She was not re-elected for a second term.

Byers did not respond to Hottytoddy.com’s request for an interview.

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