Bruce Burton takes pride in his background. The Shaw native grew up on a farm, worked a variety of jobs and studied several subjects before obtaining his law degree in 1996. Burton, 50, received a bachelor's degree from Alcorn State University and studied counseling and sociology at Delta State University before attending law school at Southern University. Even now, he is pursuing a doctorate in public health at Jackson State University.
Burton believes his varied experience would make him a better judge. A candidate for retiring Judge Swan Yerger's Hinds County Circuit Court seat, Burton previously ran for a position on the county Justice Court. He is currently in private practice with his wife, Cheryl, but Burton has spent time working for Jackson firm Lumumba, Freelon & Associates and Southwest Mississippi Legal Services in McComb.
How could county court be improved?
I like to use the analogy of the school system: You have a school system where you have a teacher in the classroom. The teacher has 15 students. The teacher can do pretty good. But if the teacher has 60 students or 100 students, ... it's going to be a bad situation. You can't get the optimal outcome.
Here in Hinds County ... the incidence of crime is way more than years back. But the number of judges is still the same. To be honest about it, there needs to be something done at the legislative level to address it: make provisions to have more circuit court judges. Then that "instructor" won't have 60 students; it can go back down to 16 or 20. So if you had more judges, they'd be able to handle more cases.
If you were elected, what would be your priorities?
Well, I'd like to be honest on the bench. I want to make sure I give each side the same amount of time to present their case. I want to be fair in my rulings. I want to be sure I listen to all the facts and apply the relevant statutory and case law to it, so each party would be able to have a fair determination of how the outcome should be. I'd like to bring honesty, and fairness and integrity. That's my cornerstone: I want it to be honest and open and fair.
What makes you the best candidate for circuit court?
I've practiced in all the courts in the state of Mississippi: county court, justice court, municipal court, chancery court, circuit court, Mississippi Supreme Court, federal district court, multi-district litigation. I probably have a deeper scholastic background than (my opponents). Even though I practice law, I'll be able to bring more to the table, from a sociology, guidance and counseling, public-health perspective, along with my law degree.
And my personal background may be more encompassing than them. I grew up on a farm, in Shaw, Miss.: I chopped cotton; I drove cotton pickers, combiners; I've worked in rice fields, bean fields. I've worked in fast food: Popeye's, Pizza Hut, McDonald's, cafeterias at the universities that I attended. I drove 18-wheelers. I did plumbing work, was a substitute school teacher. Then I became a lawyer. So I can really identify with the vast majority of the people that come into a courtroom. I'll have the ability to discern, maybe, a little better than my opponents.