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On the Ballot: Three Run for Lafayette County Chancery Court Judge Seat

By Alyssa Schnugg
News Editor
alyssa.schnugg@hottytoddy.com

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

Lafayette County Chancery Court, which is part of the 18th District.

The Lafayette County Chancery Court is often referred to as the “family court,” as it holds jurisdiction over matters like family law, sanity hearings, wills, child custody and adoptions.

After Judge Glenn Alderson announced he would not be seeking re-election, three attorneys qualified to run to take his Place One seat as 18th Chancery Court Judge – Lawrence “Larry” Little, Carnelia Fondren and Sarah J. Liddy.

The 18th Chancery Court is located in the Lafayette County Chancery Building and hears cases from Benton, Calhoun, Marshall, Tippah and Lafayette counties.

Chancery Court Judge elections are nonpartisan. Place Two Chancery Court Judge Bob Whitwell will run unopposed.

Carnelia Pettis Fondren

Lifelong Lafayette County resident, Carnelia Pettis Fondren received her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Mississippi in 1979 her law degree from the UM law school in 1993.

Carnelia Pettis Fondren

She was managing attorney for North Mississippi Rural Legal Services for three years before becoming a criminal investigator with the Third Circuit Court and assistant district attorney from 1996 to 2005 when she left to open her own practice, Fondren Law Firm.

She specializes in family law, civil and criminal trial practice work involving families, domestic abuse, housing law, disability issues, social security and elderly rights.

“I started my legal career employed with (NMRLS) as a staff attorney for low-income clients in family law and other civil matters,” Fondren said. “(As assistant district attorney), I worked primarily family and domestic violence cases. Volunteering and serving in the 18th District has been a part of my legal career including serving on several nonprofits Board of Directors.”

Fondren said she has served as a legal advocate in more than 300 cases in the 18th District.

Fondren attended law school while raising three children and says that experience will help her should she win in November.

“I will bring my real-life experiences as a wife, mother, daughter, caregiver, teacher, businesswoman and lawyer to the bench,” she said.

Fondren said she would like the chance, along with the senior chancellor and attorneys in the 18th district, to improve the district for clients and attorneys.

“I look forward to implementing rules and procedures that will expedite legal proceedings for clients,” she said. “I know improving the court system requires all parties working together to get it done.”

Fondren promised to bring “efficiency, fairness, compassion and equity” to the bench.

“I am a candidate with experience and the judicial temperaments to be fair and impartial in deciding matters important to the heart,” she said.

Fondren is married to Wade Fondren Sr. and they have three grown children and four grandchildren.

Sarah J. Liddy

Liddy has been practicing law for 25 years, primarily taking on family law matters including divorce, child custody and support, adoptions, wills and estates and real estate issues. For the past 18 years, she’s served as Youth Court Referee and has also served as interim Youth Court Referee for Benton and Tippah counties.

Sarah J. Liddy

As a Chancery Court attorney for 25 years, Liddy has handled all types of Chancery cases – divorce, child custody, child support, parent and grandparent visitation rights, paternity, adoptions and more. As the Youth Court Referee, she oversees cases involving minors who are dealing with delinquency, truancy, abuse and neglect and need supervision.

“I also serve as Marshall County’s Master in Chancery hearing all mental health, drug and alcohol commitment petitions for involuntary treatment at the state hospitals,” she said. “When there has been a vacancy or conflict of interest, I have also served as Special Referee for Benton and Tippah counties.”

Liddy, a lifelong Marshall County resident, received her law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1992 after earning her Bachelor of Arts degree from Ole Miss in 1987.

Before entering private practice, she completed an internship and was a special assistant for the U.S. Attorney in Oxford, followed by a law clerkship for the Chancery and Circuit courts in Clarksdale.

Liddy said if elected, she will use her experiences working in most Chancery Courts in north Mississippi to institute new practices and become more efficient. She plans to do this by holding more hearings in a timely manner; by conducting pretrial/settlement conferences before final trial dates; by keeping updated court calendars online; holding office hours in each of the five counties; and by motivating all counties to use the Mississippi electronic filing system.

“My judicial experience has exposed me to some of the most serious situations families can encounter and where I have had to make very tough decisions,” Liddy said. “As Chancery Judge, I will continue to be fair and impartial and always keep the best interests of children as my primary focus.”

Liddy is married to Tim Bisenius. In their free time, they enjoy traveling and attending sporting and artistic events.

Larry Little

Little has been an attorney for 40 years. He served as District Attorney for the Third Circuit of the state of Mississippi for 10 years and as the Oxford Municipal Judge for 19 years. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law and a state-approved mediator.

Lawrence “Larry” Little

Originally from Cooter, Missouri, he attended college in Mississippi. In 1973, he received a B.A. from the University of Mississippi with a major in speech and a minor in English. He earned his Juris Doctorate from Jackson School of Law at Mississippi College in 1977 and completed the F.B.I. Law Institute in Quantico, Virginia in 1991.

“During my 40 years of law practice, I have had trials in Federal, Circuit and Chancery Courts,” Little said recently. “I am a litigator who will negotiate when necessary but will not back down from a difficult case, conflict or client.”

Little said he has represented clients in every aspect of Chancery Court, including divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, will contests, real property disputes, commercial litigation, commitments, guardianships, conservatorships and estates.

“My temperament and work ethic will allow me to achieve the daily goal of dealing with a myriad of cases on the docket, just as was done in my time on the bench as a Municipal judge,” he said. “My knowledge and experience gained from working with elected officials, court personnel, law enforcement, attorneys and individual in each county in the district will be used to produce an efficiently run court.”

As Oxford’s Municipal Judge for two decades, Little gained experience he said will help him excel as a Chancery judge.

“Serving as Oxford’s Municipal judge … provided experience in making decisions, moving cases along and getting along with people in law enforcement and defendants,” he said.

Little’s goal, should he win Nov. 6, will be to maintain efficiency and balance in the court docket.

“I will rule on cases with due regard for the law without favoritism,” he said. “As judge, I will do my best to help litigants realize the short-term consequences can result in improved relationships, a more productive life and peace from the current controversy.”

Little is married to Debbie and they have three married children and five grandchildren.


 

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