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Carlton gets into runoff for Miss. Appeals Court; second spot undecided

Two sitting trial-court judges battled Tuesday to get into a runoff with a lawmaker in a close election for a seat on the Mississippi Court of Appeals.

State Rep. Virginia Carlton of Columbia won a spot for the Nov. 21 runoff. Chancery Judges Ed Patten Jr. of Hazlehurst and Larry Buffington of Collins were vying for the second spot.

The other candidates on the ballot — Richard Grindstaff, a Byram attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the a state Supreme Court post in 2004, and attorney Scott Phillips of Columbia — trailed in the race.

Appeals Judge Leslie Southwick did not seek re-election to the seat he had held since the Court of Appeals was founded in 1994. He has been nominated to become a U.S. district judge in Jackson.

Carlton, 42, is serving her first term in the Mississippi House. She is a former assistant district attorney and is also a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves, where she serves as a judge advocate general.

Buffington practiced law for 14 years before being elected to his judgeship. He was a public defender for eight years and city prosecutor for the city of Collins for three years before being elected to the chancery court in 1995.

Patten has 29 years of legal experience — first as a general practice lawyer, then for the past eight years on the bench.

Patten and Buffington also ran unopposed for re-election to their chancery court seats. If one is elected to the Court of Appeals, a special election will have to be held to fill his chancery court position. If Carlton is elected, a special election will have to be held to fill her legislative seat.

Mississippi judicial races don’t list party affiliation on ballots.

Chancery, circuit and county judicial posts were also on Tuesday’s ballot.