‘Fidelity to the Law' | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

‘Fidelity to the Law'


Frank Farmer handles child-support cases as an attorney with Young Williams.

Frank Farmer prides himself on his evenhandedness. Farmer, 34, a candidate for Hinds County Court Judge in District 1, grew up in Hattiesburg, the son of a veterinarian and a physical therapist. He studied biology briefly at Rhodes College in Memphis before deciding to major in political science. He received his bachelor's degree from Rhodes in December 1997 and enrolled as soon as he could at Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson.

Farmer received his law degree in 2001 and went to work for Currie Johnson Griffin Gaines & Myers, a local mid-sized firm specializing in litigation. He worked for Currie Johnson for eight years, leaving in October for Young Williams, where he handles child-support non-payment cases.

Farmer lives in Jackson with his wife, Aubrey, and their daughter, Layla. He serves on the church vestry for St. Andrew's Cathedral in Jackson and on the board of the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project. A type I diabetic, Farmer also spent two years as president of the board of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of Mississippi.

What made you decide to move to Young Williams?
I decided I wanted to do something that was more directly helpful to folks in Mississippi. And I say that in a way that sounds worse than I mean it. … I believe that everybody has a right, if you're litigated, to excellent representation. Currie Johnson provided excellent representation. But when (Young Williams) started this firm up with the idea of helping children get child-support payments due them—that's feel-good work.
In the type of work I'm doing now, it's difficult to feel bad. Everybody wins in that situation: The custodial parent wins because (he or she) gets the support needed for the child(ren). The children win because they get the support they're owed. And, hopefully, the non-custodial parent will end up in a situation where (he or she is) put on the right track if (he or she has) not (been) up to that point and can begin a relationship with the children.

The non-custodial parent must be the hardest part. Where's the satisfaction there?
For one thing, we find them and bring them in. Sometimes, the custodial parents don't know where they are. … The statutory provisions that allow the state to go after child-support payments do not allow us to deal with things like visitation and custody, but this is going to be a first step. And if those parties want to get some arrangement on the books, they've already started by getting child support. The building blocks are there.

What do you hope to accomplish in county court?
One is absolute fidelity to what the law says. I've litigated cases for a long time in Mississippi, and we have some excellent judges, and we have some excellent lawyers. But what's frustrating to me are judges who do things other than what the law says. When the law is clear, you do exactly what the law says. It's written down for you.

Can you think of issues where you feel like that's come up?
I can, and I'm not going to give you specific issues, because I certainly don't want to name sitting judges. But fidelity to the law is what I want to achieve. The other thing I want to achieve—and this is just from personal experience. What I don't like is when people on either side of the bar can't see the other side of the bar. They'll be in a position where every plaintiff's a liar or every defendant's trying to hide the ball. I never fit into that category, and I found it frustrating when people on either side of the bar did. I prided myself on always being able to look at a case and say, "This case has some merit to it," or "This case doesn't." I believe I do that very well, without a preconceived notion about what role any particular litigant is playing in the litigation. That temperament is absolutely required of a judge.

Are there issues particular to Hinds County that a good candidate should address?
The ability to handle a large number of cases. County court has no backlog, really, to speak of. The circuit court does. This is not a new idea, but it has not been applied as universally in Hinds County—something very similar to the federal magistrate system, but a little less so: A circuit court can share a case with a county court. … That's done to some extent, but it needs to be done a lot more. If you look at the backlogs in the Hinds County court system, either on the chancery side or the circuit side, you're talking about years to get a trial date. In county court that's not the case, and a lot of those cases could have been filed in county court to begin with. But (county court judges) can sit as a special circuit judge and do that.

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