Longtime Chancery Judge Larry Buffington, who is in a runoff in less than three weeks, is facing a new judicial complaint.This is the "fuzzy" law.
Buffington allegedly has filed orders in four counties dating to 2000 hiring his brother, Scott Buffington, as a Youth Court prosecutor, according to the complaint.
Charlene May of Silver City acknowledged to The Clarion-Ledger that she filed the complaint "because I think the public needs to know he is robbing taxpayers."
But the head of the judicial watchdog group charged with investigating complaints and making punishment recommendations said state law dealing with nepotism is fuzzy.
"It speaks to specific officers and clerks," said John Toney, executive director of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance.
It shall be unlawful for any person elected, appointed or selected in any manner whatsoever to any state, county, district or municipal office, or for any board of trustees of any state institution, to appoint or employ, as an officer, clerk, stenographer, deputy or assistant who is to be paid out of the public funds, any person related by blood or marriage within the third degree, computed by the rule of the civil law, to the person or any member of the board of trustees having the authority to make such appointment or contract such employment as employer. § 25-1-53And the law states (§ 25-4-103) a brother is a relative.
Toney would not discuss a specific case but said generally it's not a "slam dunk" that any rule or law has been broken.There might be a few other things to consider as well also from the Code of Judicial Conduct
"The only thing we would be looking at is whether he appointed someone who wasn't needed," Toney said.
• A judge shall avoid nepotism and favoritism. (Canon 3-C-4)Back to the story.
• Judges shall not allow their family, social, or other relationships to influence the judges' judicial conduct or judgment. (Canon 2-B)
May filed records with her complaint showing orders signed by Buffington appointing Scott Buffington as a Youth Court prosecutor in Jefferson Davis, Lawrence and Simpson counties. Scott Buffington also was appointed for Smith County, too, but not Covington, she said.Besides nepotism, Buffington also may have violated §25-4-105 that prohibits a relative setting "the amount of pecuniary benefit" of a relative which the Mississippi Ethics Commission has looked down on numerous times (for example Opinion ID: 99-043-E and Opinion ID: 05-069-E).
We hope to hear more from Judge Larry Buffington on this one.