District Attorney retires year early

Published 11:28 pm Saturday, December 30, 2006

A year before his second term expires, Claiborne “Buddy” McDonald is stepping down from his position as District Attorney for the five counties in Circuit Court District 15.

McDonald has served Pearl River, Lamar, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence and Marion counties for the past seven years as District Attorney and served a total of 34 years in state and local service. McDonald said he spent 16 years as Assistant District Attorney, four years as a prosecuting attorney, four years as municipal court judge for the City of Picayune and has spent the past seven years as district attorney.

As of Tuesday, McDonald will go into the private practice of law in the Picayune area so he can spend more time with his family.

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“I guess I don’t have a big enough ego to stay there until I die,” McDonald said.

McDonald still has about a year left in his second four-year term, he said.

“I don’t necessarily believe in term limits,” McDonald said. “I feel like this would be a good time to get in the private practice of law.”

This move, McDonald said, would give the person appointed district attorney to replace him an opportunity to get experience under his belt for the election that will take place in 2007 to fill the position. Friday night at a retirement reception held for McDonald at Magnolia Columns, Hal Kittrell was introduced as Gov. Haley Barbour’s appointee to fill the position until the election.

“(McDonald) has raised the bar as far as what you expect from a district attorney,” Kittrell said.

“He’s an experienced prosecutor and has excellent trial skills and good common sense,” McDonald said about Kittrell. “I think he’ll do an excellent job.”

McDonald gave two primary reasons for stepping down from his position as district attorney. The first was to spend more time with his family and the second was to make more money to support his children who are going to college.

Recently there have been allegations filed about abuse at the Pearl River County jail and rumors have circulated that McDonald’s early retirement might somehow be linked, something he disputed.

“I’m not quitting because of the jail,” McDonald said.

McDonald’s new practice will be located at 124 Kirkwood St. across from West Side Elementary. He said he and Gerald Patch will practice general law together.

At the retirement party at Magnolia Columns, Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Chris Lott shared the story of how he and McDonald first met.

Lott said he pulled McDonald over for a traffic violation and ran his tag. When it came back with no violations or warrants, Lott said he wrote McDonald a ticket not realizing who he was. Lott said McDonald paid the ticket the same day not expecting any special treatment. Lott then presented McDonald with a plaque of appreciation for all he has done for the Sheriff’s Department over the years.

Pearl River County Emergency Operations Director Bobby Strahan also presented McDonald with tokens of appreciation for the help he gave in the days and months following Hurricane Katrina.