Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Lafayette County Judge Candidates: Meet James Justice

Lafayette County residents will vote to elect the county’s first County judge on Nov. 8.

Eight local attorneys have qualified to run for the new seat. They include Steve Jubera, James B. Justice, Cornelia Fondren, Thomas A. Waller, Josh Turner, Ray Garrett, Tiffany Kilpatrick and Christine Tatum.

Over the next few days, Hotty Toddy News will be running profiles of each candidate, along with their answers to three questions that were presented to them.

Profile information was provided by each candidate to the Lafayette County Circuit Clerk’s Office and is also listed on the Election page of the Lafayette County website.

James Justice

James Justice

James Justice has been a resident of Lafayette County for over half of his life after moving here to attend the University of Mississippi. Justice is a native of Alcorn County where he grew up in the small, rural community of Rock Hill outside Corinth.

Justice graduated high school with honors and as salutatorian from Alcorn Central High School in 1998. From there Justice attended Northeast Mississippi Community College where he served as Vice President of the Student Government Association and again graduated with honors and received an Associate of Arts degree in Political Science.

While attending Northeast, Justice was asked at the age of 19 to take over as the Youth Director for the program at his church. Justice’s passion for helping others can be traced back to his involvement with his church. Justice loved the opportunity to spread his faith through action and almost took a different career path when he visited seminaries and considered whether he was being called to the ministry while serving as Youth Director.

Ultimately, Justice followed in his older brother’s footsteps and attended the University of Mississippi. Justice fell in love with Lafayette County and Oxford as a teenager visiting his older brother as an undergraduate in the Chemical Engineering program. When he arrived on campus Justice immediately became involved in the community through volunteer opportunities with
Habitat for Humanity and the Lafayette County Literacy Council.

Justice also joined the Fraternity of Delta Psi, where he was able to assist in the re-establishment of their chapter on campus after several years of inactivity. Justice graduated with honors again, earning his Bachelor of Arts Degree in History Magna Cum Laude in May 2002.

Justice then attended the University of Mississippi School of Law. In his summers during law school Justice worked as an intern for the District Attorney’s office in Oxford assisting with felony prosecutions, and Justice also worked as a Law Clerk for the Tollison Law Firm.

Justice graduated with honors one last time, this time completing his law degree Cum Laude in May of 2005.

Justice became licensed to practice law in Mississippi the fall of 2005 and went to work for Shelton & Associates Law Firm located in Tupelo, Mississippi, while still making his home in Lafayette County. After a little over a year with that firm, Justice gave up his commute and struck out on his own in late 2006 forming the law firm of Justice & Alexander, P.A. with attorney Alan Alexander.

In January 2010, Justice and Alan amicably split up the firm and Justice founded Justice B. Justice, PLLC, where Justice still serves the Lafayette County community today.

In Justice’s 17 years of practicing law, he has primarily handled family law cases in Chancery and Youth Courts, criminal defense cases in Justice, Municipal, and Circuit Court, as well as civil cases in Justice, Circuit, and Chancery Courts.

Justice was named Attorney of the Year in April 2015 by the University of Mississippi’s Pro Bono Initiative in recognition for Justice’s willingness to work at free legal clinics in Lafayette County to serve those members of our community who cannot afford to hire an attorney. Justice’s legal experience directly overlaps with the responsibilities of the new Lafayette County Court Judge position he is seeking.

  1. Why are you running for County Judge?
  2. What makes you the best candidate?

    I can answer both questions with one response: I am running for County Judge because I am the most qualified and prepared candidate to set up the County Court for Lafayette County. Since the first day I had a license to practice law, I have practiced in the three main areas over which County Court will have jurisdiction: civil cases, criminal matters, and cases involving families and children. County Court will also hear eminent domain cases.

Over the past decade, I have practiced extensively in real estate litigation, which will more than adequately prepare me to oversee eminent domain matters. Since this election began, I am one of the only candidates who has talked openly about my plans for County Court. The County Court Judge will take over as the full-time judge for Lafayette County Youth Court, which hears cases involving abuse and neglect of children, usually dealing with parents of younger children, as well as delinquency and truancy cases, generally intervening with teenage children and their parents.

I plan to ask the Circuit Court Judges for jurisdiction over Lafayette County Drug Court and all felony drug cases on the Circuit Court’s criminal docket. Why? That is because our parents and older teenagers who appear in Youth Court usually deal with mental health and drug addiction struggles, often self-medicating with drugs instead of tackling the mental health problem directly. Therefore, I plan to integrate, as much as possible, the services received by Drug Court participants and Youth Court participants because we know that Drug Court graduates are less likely to re-enter the criminal justice system, which makes our communities safer and at the same time saves taxpayers’ money because it costs more money to imprison offenders than rehabilitate them.

I also plan to use scheduling orders that set deadlines in civil cases to reduce costs and resolve cases early, requiring parties to mediate their disputes before litigants spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on cases that can and could be resolved without spending that money. I believe in common sense solutions and will continue to respond and adapt to the challenges our County Court faces, as these will evolve over time. I am ready to step away from being an advocate for individuals and small businesses, and I am fully prepared to go to work as an advocate for the people of Lafayette County on day one. I will work tirelessly to ensure that the Lafayette County our children and grandchildren inherit will be even greater than the one we currently enjoy. My faith in God, knowledge of and experience in the law, and strong judgment and critical thinking skills are best put to service as your first Lafayette County Court Judge. I would be honored to have your vote in the General Election on November 8, 2022, as well as the runoff on Nov. 29, 2022.

With this being a new court for the county, what do you hope to accomplish with this position if elected?

When I implement my plan for Lafayette County, we will begin the process of dismantling the Youth Court to Criminal Court to prison pipeline. By keeping the safety and well-being of our children in Youth Court as our first priority, we will try to intervene on behalf of children in bad situations as early as possible by working with parents to get them stable and sober while also not re-traumatizing children who already find themselves battling traumatic experiences. We can accomplish this by prioritizing family placement of children taken into custody so that they are with a relative or close family friend that is familiar to them, whenever possible. This will allow the parent-child bond to remain strong because family members are usually more receptive to supervised visits with parents, and it will help motivate parents to get stable and sober so that they can ultimately be reunited with their children.

I will reduce the number of civil cases on the docket and the amount of time it takes to get civil cases resolved through the use of scheduling orders as discussed above, and I will keep our County Court in session year-round, so we will be able to get those cases that need trials done in months instead of years. Finally, I plan to reduce the burden on our Circuit Court Judges by overseeing the Lafayette County Drug Court and all of the felony drug cases on the criminal docket. Our three Circuit Court Judges have seven counties to cover and have terms of court in Lafayette County for 14 out of 52 weeks of the year. My plan to keep County Court in session year-round will also benefit the criminal docket by getting those cases resolved or set for trial. These accomplishments will not be mine alone but will be shared by all of the stakeholders – Youth Court staff, Social Workers and Counselors with Child Protective Services, Law Enforcement, Drug Court staff, the Lafayette County Bar, our school teachers, and administrators… this list could be endless. If we respond rather than react to the challenges we face, we can and will accomplish these goals and have a Lafayette County that will make us all proud to call home.


Staff report

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