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Johnson seeking justice court seat

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 11th in a series of stories featuring candidates in the Lafayette County area leading up to the November general election. We will feature those candidates in the contested races in the coming month.

While campaigning, Lafayette County Justice Court Northern District candidate Jeffery Johnson said a goal was to let voters know they have a choice as to whom they would like to see sitting behind the bench in one of the busiest courts in the county.

“I love to meet and talk to people and listen to what they have to say,” the Republican said. “If I am elected, I am accountable to the citizens and will continue to stay in touch with them.”

Johnson will go head-to-head with Democratic candidate Caroline Bell. The seat was left vacant by Judge Frances Gordon who announced she would not be seeking re-election earlier this year.

Johnson, 43, said he will continue trying to meet as many voters as he can over the next few weeks leading up to the general election on Nov. 3. While campaigning since qualifying for the race at the start of the year, he said voters have expressed a need for change.

“What is most troubling for me is when people say they don’t even bother going to Justice Court anymore,” he said.

“I’ve heard one of the judges say that Justice Court is the people’s court, and I totally agree with that, but something is wrong when the people don’t want to use it.”

Johnson said he’s heard many reasons as to why people avoid the Justice Court, but the biggest reason he’s heard are residents feeling there is a lack of justice in Justice Court.

“That’s unacceptable,” he said.

As the county continues to grow, so does the number of people needed to fit inside the courthouse which is located next to the Lafayette County Detention Center and Johnson said while the building needs renovating, he hopes county leaders will keep the court in the same location.

“It is located close to the jail and would be convenient for officers,” he said. “Having the building located close to sheriff’s department serves as a security feature.”

A criminal justice college instructor, Johnson earned a bachelor’s and graduate degrees in criminal justice as well as a doctorate in education. He also earned a graduate certificate in homeland security and the status of a gang expert. His educational background will help him on and off the bench, he said.

“I have been a department chair of an academic department twice and oversaw not only criminal justice, but paralegal studies as well,” he said. “I know how to research the law and find how it’s been applied elsewhere and to use discretion and sound judgment when needed.”

Justice Courts have jurisdiction over small claims civil cases involving amounts of $3,500 or less, misdemeanor criminal cases and any traffic offense that occurs outside a municipality. Justice Court judges may conduct bond hearings and preliminary hearings in felony criminal cases and may issue search warrants.

The son of a preacher, Johnson said his humble beginnings taught him to work hard for what he wanted in life.

“I have been driven from an early age to challenge myself,” he said. “Everything I have is due to hard work and belief in God.”

Johnson has been married to his wife, Lindy, for 17 years and they have three daughters, Madison, 12, Kaitlyn, 10, and Jordyn, 4.

While not busy teaching criminal justice at the University of Mississippi, being a T-ball and soccer coach for his daughters, or campaigning, he spends time volunteering as director of the Part-Time Law Enforcement Academy and Full-Time Jail Academy.

For more about Johnson, visit his website, www.jefferymjohnson.com.