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Candidate put back on ballot

MONTICELLO — An ousted Justice Court Judge Post 2 candidate hasbeen returned to the ballot, reversing a disqualification byLawrence County Election Commissioners on Sept. 11.

Circuit Judge Judge Michael Eubanks stated in his ruling thatthe election commissioners committed an error when theydisqualified Albert Turnage from the race. Turnage was disqualifiedbecause he lives outside of the Post 2 district. The commissioners’decision was in accordance with political office regulations issuedby the State Department and opinions from the Attorney General’sOffice.

Eubanks, however, said several factors led to hisconclusion.

“It is significant to note . . . the Mississippi Constitutionwas amended in 1975, and the requirement was changed from residencyin the district to residency in the county,” according to thejudge’s order. “The practical effect of this change is to removethe requirement that a Justice Court judge reside in the countydistrict in which he is running.”

Eubanks said the AG’s opinion was based on an erroneous readingof a code that states “if any state, district, county, countydistrict, or municipal officer during the term of his office shallremove out of this state, district, county, or municipality forwhich he was elected or appointed, such office shall thereby becomevacant . . .”

The AG’s opinion was that a logical extension of that orderwould prevent a person from running for the office if they livedoutside the district, Eubanks said, but the logic is wrong.

The judge states in the order that the removal of “countydistrict” in the latter part of the order was intentional and showsthat a Justice Court judge “may not be removed for moving out ofthe district as long as he stays in the same county.”

Other sections of the Mississippi Constitution and MississippiCode require a candidate to live in the district in which they arerunning, but no such code exists for Justice Court judge, Eubanksstates.

“Where the legislature and citizens of Mississippi have wantedelected public officials to reside in the district they serve, thelaws of this state unambiguously state those desires,” Eubankssaid. “If the legislature or the citizens of Mississippi thought itvital that a Justice Court judge reside in the same county districtin which he seeks to serve, they would have included that in thespecific requirements.”

The judge said the omission of the residency requirement wasintentional because the two judges hear cases countywide and arenot limited to cases in their jurisdiction.

“The goal of a democratic form of government is have the highestnumber of qualified candidates for the electorate to choose from,”Eubanks said. “The laws should be construed, where possible, toincrease the voters’ choices, not suppress them.”

Turnage was unavailable for comment.

Other candidates for the office include James H. Ard, James E.”Jamie” Givens Jr., Verla Davis Dillon, Gregory L. May, Curtis”Curt” Brister, James “Sandy” Brister, Donald Glen “Donnie” Mullinsand Homer Sutton.