Candidate Questionnaire: Byron Carter | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Candidate Questionnaire: Byron Carter

Photo courtesy Byron Carter

Photo courtesy Byron Carter Photo by Byron Carter

Fast Facts About Byron Carter

Age: 56

Title of Specific District/Position Campaigning for:

Court of Appeals Judge, District 4, Place 2

Educational Background:

Mississippi State University, Bachelors of Business Administration

Mississippi College School of Law, Doctor of Jurisprudence

Professional Background:

Law firm of Carter Law Firm, P.A., 2006, to present.

Law firm of Daniel Coker Horton & Bell, P.A., 1995 to 2003.

Law firm of Hill, Hill, Carter, Franco, Cole & Black, P.C., 1989 to 1995.

Law firm of Steiner, Crum & Baker, 1988 to 1989.

Law Clerk for Presiding Judge Armis E. Hawkins, Mississippi Supreme Court, 1987 to 1988.

Place of Residence:

Byram

Spouse/children (if applicable):

Tracy Mitchell Carter - spouse

William Carter and Dallas Albritton, children

If you have run for this judicial seat before, please state when. (If you are an incumbent, please cite years in current position): N/A

List your endorsements:

I have received support and the right to use the names of several prominent businessmen and politicians, but while I appreciate their support behind the scenes, as this campaign is non-partisan, I have chosen not to use their names but to remain non-partisan.

Why do you want to serve on the Mississippi Appellate Court right now?

When I clerked for the supreme court I observed the appeals process and how cases were handled. I also observed the justices and how they handled themselves both in the courtroom, in discussions with other justices and in public. While all the justices were well-known knowledgeable attorneys, I was thoroughly impressed by Armis Hawkins, Roy Noble Lee and Reuben Anderson. I appreciated their thought processes in deciding cases. Their decisions were based upon the law as it applied to the facts without regard to the parties or their attorneys. They used common sense with their decisions. I also admired their demeanor to staff and to attorneys in the courtroom and the general public outside the court. I decided then that being an appellate judge was perfectly suited to my personality and to my intellect. I have waited for an opportunity to serve in the position as an appellate judge. I am very aware of how to perform case law research after having done it for over 30 years. An appellate judge has to be non-biased and decide the cases based upon the law as it is applied to the specific facts set out before the trial court. I believe that I can be fair and impartial to all parties who appear before the court.

How do you view the impact of a Mississippi appellate judge, and what would you bring to the role?

An appellate judge is asked to review the lower court's ruling, research that ruling and determine if it was correctly. Because the litigants are waiting to find out if the result of their case is final as it is or reversed or remanded for a new trial, the process needs to be performed as quickly as possible. When I clerked for the supreme court, I believe the time between the lower court's verdict and the supreme court's decision was as much as 3 years. The supreme court and the court of appeals have worked hard to reduce that time.

At the age of 12, I began working 50 to 60 hours per week for my father. I have continued to work those hours. I plan to continue to work as many hours as are necessary to further reduce the time for a decision to be rendered by the court. I have a business degree and believe that it along with my 30 years of handling cases in the courtroom and in administrative agencies all over the state will assist me with helping to reduce the time for entering decisions.

As a scout and an Eagle Scout, I was taught to leave a campsite or anywhere else that I have been in better shape than when I got there. As such, I want the court of appeals to be better after I have been there and left than it is now.

Provide one or two examples of your legal and/or judicial experience when you have made an impact in the state, and describe the result.

I have assisted many parents in getting custody of their children from an abusive or drug-addicted parent. My hope has always been that those children now have a chance for a better life and a future that will not only make themselves better but will make this state a better place. When I've seen those children years after the change in custody, I think that I've changed their lives forever. When confronted with a divorce involving children I have attempted to get the parents to consider their children and try to disrupt their lives as little as possible. I have stressed for them to get along for the children regardless of their feelings for each other.

After my father was killed in a work accident, I learned about a scholarship program for children of deceased or severely injured workers called Kids' Chance. I wondered how different my life would have been had my father died 20 years earlier. Then, through connections in the legal and medical community, I have worked to assist with establishing a Kids' Chance of Mississippi scholarship where to date we have provided almost $400,000 in scholarships to deserving children. I also have been a Board Member of Kids' Chance of America helping to establish and maintain the scholarship program in other states. It is my hope that the lives of all of these children have been enhanced by their ability to obtain an education.

In the past year or so, what has been the most consequential/at-risk issue facing the appellate court, and what do you plan to do about it?

I have worked long hours since I was 12 years old working for my father. I have no problem with working long hours with the court to further reduce the backlog of cases. By statute decisions must be handed down within 270 days. I believe that we can do better, as a party with a case on appeal does not want to wait 9 months for a decision.

What are the characteristics of a good judge, and how do your characteristics compare?

The duties of an appellate judge are different from a trial judge. While both have to be fair and dispassionate and cannot judge a case based upon who the parties are, who their attorneys are, their race or their gender, an appellate judge also has to be willing to apply the law to the facts without adding any outside factors. Nevertheless, the appellate judge cannot be ignorant of the circumstances that brought about the trial court hearing and make sure that the trial court considered all relevant factors in rendering its judgment. I believe that I can serve on the court with integrity, efficiency and fairness. I genuinely want to make a real difference for all Mississippians and make the court better.

What sets you apart in this race?

I am licensed to practice in Mississippi and Alabama and the United States Supreme Court. I was chosen to clerk for Presiding Justice Armis Hawkins in the Mississippi Supreme Court for one year where I learned appellate procedure and the writing of opinions, as well as how to handle litigants in oral arguments. Then, I worked for around 15 months researching the law and writing briefs for appellants and appellees where the party explains to the appellate court the facts of a case, how it got to the appellate court and why the result in the trial court should be affirmed or reversed. Since that time, I have practiced law in courtrooms and administrative agencies all over Mississippi and Alabama handling the types of cases that are handled by the court of appeals - workers' compensation, divorce, child custody, child support, custody modification, estates and criminal matters. I also have researched and written additional appellate briefs for the Mississippi Court of Appeals, the Alabama Supreme Court and the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. I have not concentrated my practice in one area and understand the law, courtroom procedures and appellate procedures. Having been brought up in church with very loving parents, I was fortunate. Nevertheless, having been in private practice I have seen many things and understand some of the problems that we have in society and will continue to work outside the court to educate the public about the law and hopefully start our state toward mending those problems.

If you are unsuccessful in your race, how specifically will you continue working on behalf of the state?

As an attorney, I will continue to provide legal services to whomever is in need. I currently represent mothers, fathers, children, widows, widowers, injured persons, individuals and businesses with their legal needs and will continue to do so. As noted above, I helped to start Kids' Chance of Mississippi, which provides college and vocational scholarships to children of Mississippi workers killed or severely injured in on-the-job accidents. I will continue to assist with raising money for the scholarships and locating students to receive the scholarships. I also will continue my work with Kids' Chance of America to establish a scholarship fund in all states and U.S. territories and to assist with raising money for more children.

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