Monday's debate between Judge Larry Buffington and challenger David Shoemake sponsored by MageeNews.com is available online for viewing.
It lasts about an hour, but here are our favorite parts:
1) Buffington discusses the Judicial Performance charge against him.
2) Buffington and Shoemake discuss the third candidate's (Douglas Magee) endorsement of Shoemake.
3) Buffington says Shoemake called him an SOB and Shoemake explains if he did it was over the case of 15-year-old honor student named Tiffany who didn't want to visit her neglectful parent for which Buffington had a deputy arrest her and take her to jail.
Here are the transcripts.
Question: The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance found that you did not have the proper authority to issue subpoenas to two county supervisors to appear before you in a meeting on February 11, 2009. At the meeting you admitted you failed to comply with the law but said you didn't care. The Commission recommended to the Mississippi Supreme Court that you be reprimanded and fined. The Supreme Court has not yet issued its decision. Do you agree with the recommendation by the Commission on Judicial Performance?
Buffington: Absolutely. I messed up. Sixteen years you make some mistakes....I was frustrated; I'll be just as honest as I can be. I had asked the Simpson County Board of Supervisors to meet with me because there had been a controversy about an appointment that I made, a great appointment, a very qualified person, a needed appointment. Three of the supervisors agreed to meet with me. Unfortunately, one of the supervisors particularly said he wanted a subpoena or an order. The other supervisor I was told said the same thing. So out of frustration, because I have always met with the board. If they asked me to meet with them about any kind of situation and I've met with the board. And I thought that, not that they owed me anything, but they owed the office the respect, to meet with me. So I did. Before I thought, I issued the subpoena. The thing about the subpoena was I could have issued the subpoena if I had just set forth what it was. I did not set forth in the subpoena the reason. I made a mistake. I accepted that responsibility. The judicial performance committee has made a recommendation on it and I am in full agreement with it.
Question: Judge Buffington, Simpson County is the largest county in this district and Simpson County native Douglas Magee won a large share of our votes. What would you say to those who supported Mr. Magee to convince them to vote for you in the run-off election?
Buffington: Look at my last 16 years. Doug and I have never had any disagreements. He might have had a disagreement on certain things he wanted to achieve but we've never had any disagreements as far as in court and I would think if they look at me and what I've done they'd want to support me.
Shoemake: Well, Mr. Magee and his supporters are going to support me - [cheers and applause] - and there will be an ad coming out in the paper this week to that effect. But I would say to them, if you want to compare who to vote for, do just that. Go ask other lawyers who have had other lawyers with me, who have had other lawyers with him, ask the people who have had cases with me, ask the people who have had cases with him and inquire if they think justice has been done. When they got a ruling out of the court do they feel they've been treated fairly and has justice been done. When I do my job as a lawyer did I treat them with respect? Did I do what I pledged to do as a lawyer and represent them to the best of my ability? And did I do it and treat them fairly and honestly? People need to go and investigate the people they are voting for for judge.
Buffington: The fact that maybe I've run for other offices, trying to improve what I think is our court system. I'm not ashamed of that. I would do it again. The only lawyer who has ever called me an S.O.B. is standing right beside me right here. So I would ask you to ask the other lawyers in the district as far as how I treat people and how he has treated me at times. And he was a good friend. He is godparent of my youngest child. I have appointed him on cases to represent children where he has made close to a million dollars.
Shoemake: That is absolutely not true and I do want a chance to respond to all of this.
Buffington: And he has and those type things. And I have ruled against him. And he has told everybody I have ruled against him every time he comes in there and I don't. I rule based on the facts and based on what's before me. And I'm going to continue to do that in the future and I hate that it’s gotten down to this. I'm real disappointed it’s gotten down to this. But I'm not going to sit here and be slammed. And I do ask you to check. Check with your court personnel. Check with your local lawyers. Are there two or three that are mad at me? Absolutely. But check with them and see.
Moderator: OK. I'll give you one minute to respond.
Shoemake: Judge Buffington says I called him an S.O.B.
Buffington: Terrell Stubbs was present!
[Terrell Stubbs was standing at the back of the room, at this point he exited the debate hall.]
Shoemake: I don't know whether I did or not, but I know what happened immediately before that in Court. He put that young lady right there on the second row in jail. She was fifteen, a straight-A honor student at Seminary High School. She had not ever caused anybody a problem. She had three part time jobs. She did not want to go with her parent on a weekend visitation when that parent had basically neglected her for the first fourteen years of her life. After all of that. Judge Buffington ordered a deputy to come to the courthouse and take her to jail. Now, in the courtroom, my face never changed. I don't have a lot of personality and I take being a lawyer seriously. I carry a poker face in the courtroom. You never know my emotions in the courtroom. When I got back to his office, in his office with the door closed and with two or three other lawyers there I expressed my opinions on the way he ran his court. And I still have those opinions. And that's one of the things that has pushed me to run for the job I'm running for now. You can talk all you want to, it’s all about kids. But when you put a fifteen year old honor student like Tiffany in jail or threaten her with jail, something is bad wrong.