By Talbert Toole
As the primary election approaches for the state of Mississippi on Tuesday, two Oxford residents are facing off for the Republican nomination for Justice Court Judge of the Northern Justice Court District of Lafayette County. The winner will face incumbent Judge Carolyn Bell in November.
Emily Smathers Ratliff
Andy Arant, 61, has been a resident of Lafayette county since August 1997. He moved to Lafayette from Indianola, Mississippi, which is located in Sunflower county.
Arant graduated from Indianola Academy in 1976 prior to enrolling at Mississippi State University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering.
While attending MSU, Arant participated in the Cooperative Education Program where he would alternate semesters working and attending classes.
He spent 3 work sessions at one of Deere and Company’s manufacturing facilities in Ankeny, Iowa, which is located just north of Des Moines, Iowa.
After completing his tenure at MSU, he moved backed to his home county of Sunflower where he assisted his father on the family farm. For 9 years Arant tended the farm before being approached with an opportunity to open a brand new FM commercial broadcasting radio station. In 1990, he parted ways with the family farm to pursue the opportunity as the General Manager and Chief Engineer of New Country 96.9 FM, a Christian country music station.
He worked in commercial broadcasting for 7 years until the station was sold. Arant transitioned to Lafayette county after the sell to further his education.
Arant applied and was accepted into the University of Mississippi School of Law of August 1997; he received his Juris Doctor in December 1999.
He became employed with Burns Law Firm, PC, of Water Valley in February 2000. In September 2000, Arant was admitted to the Mississippi Bar and formerly licensed to practice law in Mississippi.
In August 2004, he left Burns Law Firm, PC, and in January 2005, Arant opened his own firm, Arant Law Firm, PA, located in Oxford where he is still presently employed.
Arant’s firm represents clients in primarily family law/domestic relations cases. In addition, since January 2013, he has served as the public defender for the city of Water Valley, where he represents indigent clients accused of misdemeanors.
Arant is an active member of the Oxford community since his move. He has planted his roots in the community as a member of St. Andrews United Methodist Church where he has served as a past chairman of the finance committee and a past chairman of the staff/pastor relations committee.
He is married to his “high school sweetheart” and the couple recently celebrated their 40th anniversary this past May. The Arant’s have 3 children.
Arant said as a candidate for judicial office, his actions are governed by the Code of Judicial Conduct. This Code prohibits him from engaging in partisan politics during the course of his campaign.
As such, he said he cannot explain to the media or public why he is running for Justice Court Judge as his explanation might be deemed to be partisan. This same argument applies to what Arant believes is the biggest issue facing Lafayette County and my ideas on how to correct the problem.
“However, I can say that if I am elected to the position of Justice Court Judge, I promise to consider all of the evidence put before me and rule according to the applicable law,” Arant said.
Arant said his diverse life experiences, such as designing agricultural machines to representing clients that cannot afford an attorney, has more than prepared him for the responsibilities of a Justice Court Judge.
“Thus, I believe that I am the best-qualified candidate,” he said.
Emily Smathers Ratliff, 41, was born and raised in Lafayette County and currently lives in Abbeville with her “high school sweetheart,” Andy Ratliff.
The Ratliffs have been married for 22 years and are the parents of two children, Abbey and John Ratliff.
Ratliff’s roots hold deep in Lafayette county as she is a graduate of Lafayette County High School and of the University of Mississippi. She holds a Master’s of Business Administration from Union Univerity. In 2010, she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law.
“A fifth-generation Lafayette Countian, my roots run deep and wide here in Lafayette County,” Ratliff said.
She currently works as a local attorney, licensed to practice before the state and Federal Courts in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama.
During law school, she was admitted for limited practice and served with the Guardian Ad Litem Clinic for two years protecting the rights and best interest of children and vulnerable adults who had been victims of abuse and neglect.
Additionally, she worked as an intern with the U.S. Federal District Court under Magistrate S. Allan Alexander; as well as the EEOC and National Labor Relations Board
Since being fully admitted to the bar 2011, Ratliff has spent her legal career helping local residents right here in Lafayette county, and beyond, with complex legal problems.
For six years she was a hearing and appeals attorney with The Cochran Firm, representing disabled individuals across the Southeast, who had been denied their rightful benefits by the Social Security Administration, in both administrative hearings and Federal District courts.
Ratliff has also represented clients in wrongful debt collection actions, contract disputes and family law matters across north Mississippi.
Currently, Ratliff is the managing attorney at Roberts Wilson, PA, and spends her time representing families and individuals who have suffered serious injuries or even death by no fault of their own. She also serves as the city attorney for the Town of Abbeville which involves both prosecutorial and civil litigation/advisory responsibilities.
“I have always had a passion for justice and for fair and equal treatment under the law,” she said. “This is why I decided to seek the position of Justice Court Judge for the Northern District.”
If elected, she said she will be both fair and firm. Her focus will be on upholding the United States Constitution and the laws of Mississippi, regardless of who is standing in her Courtroom.
The majority of people who find themselves in Justice Court on civil matters, and often even criminal matters, are unrepresented by attorneys, according to Ratliff.
“I believe that by serving in this role, as a member of the legal profession, I have a unique perspective and level of preparedness for the job that will benefit all who comes before me as a Justice Court Judge,” she said.