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Porter: Experience matters as judge

November 21, 2010

By KELLY DANIELS
citybeat@bellsouth.net

The election of a Circuit Judge for Place 3 in the 16th Circuit Court District is not over. Voters will have to decide between two candidates in a runoff election on Tuesday — Lee Coleman and Nebra Porter, both West Point attorneys.
All Oktibbeha County registered voters may vote in the runoff; polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. What follows is a question-and-answer interview with Porter. She and Coleman were asked the same questions.
West Point attorney Nebra Porter received her law degree from the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio.
Her experience in law practice includes criminal defense, chancery and administrative law.
Porter married Bill Porter, a veteran of the Vietnam War and U.S. Marine. They traveled and lived in many different places before moving back to West Point five years ago. They have three children and nine grandchildren.

What are your strongest qualities as a candidate?

I would say experience — my 20 years as a trial lawyer, specifically 16 years as a criminal attorney. The majority of cases that a Circuit Court Judge hears are criminal cases.
I would also say one of my strongest qualities is compassion for people, because as a judge, you’re dealing with people’s lives, and it’s important to be able to see things from their point of view.
Integrity is another one. People as well as judges have to have character, even when making unpopular decisions, based on fairness, impartiality and application of the law.
What are you most passionate about when it comes to the legal system?

I’m most passionate about people being treated fairly — the law being applied fairly and equally no matter the economic status of those involved. Those things should not play a part in your access to and treatment in the courts.
The legal system should provide equal justice for all involved.

What does justice mean to you specifically?

Again, equal access to justice. Unfortunately, sometimes access to justice depends on your ability to pay for it. That’s why I was an attorney for Legal Services and a court appointed criminal attorney.

How do you view the local court system’s success in administering justice?

I believe that the local court system is doing the best it can. Of course, there’s always room for improvement. With the advent of new technologies, it could run more efficiently, though I don’t know specifically what kind of technology they use.
I believe that a drug court would go a long way in improving the success of administering justice. By establishing a drug court, first-time nonviolent offenders would receive treatment instead of prison sentences, and most importantly, they would become law abiding, tax paying citizens.
We have 22 districts in the state and 16 of them already have drug courts, which have been very successful.

How confident are you that you would be an asset to the 16th District’s Circuit Court?

One hundred percent. 1,000 percent. I would be an asset because of my strong qualities.
I’ve spent my entire career and personal life trying to do what is fair.
I’ve been blessed in my life, so I feel the need to serve. I have a law degree; many people don’t have that. I’m here. My children are healthy. I feel that I must use what I have to give back to my community.

What motivates you to serve as judge and make decisions that involve life or death?

Decisions involving life and death can be very difficult. What motivates me to face those decisions is my drive to approach them accurately, according to the law, and fairly. But if a conviction calls for a death sentence under the law, then I’m prepared to do that.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I’d like to reemphasize that my life experiences and my career experiences would allow me to bring a unique perspective to the bench. My character and my compassion for fairness is an asset that would be useful to the bench.
I just look forward to the opportunity to serve the citizens of the 16th District.

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