When I heard the news that Chancery Judge Larry Buffington of Collins had ordered the Simpson County Board of Supervisors to hire defeated former state Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz as a Simpson County Youth Court public defender, I wasn’t at all surprised. Buffington told the Clarion-Ledger that he ordered the supervisors to hire Diaz because the board had cut out of their county budget a public defender post he wanted filled — AND — because Diaz told him he needed one more year to qualify for his state retirement benefits.
The move will cost the Simpson County taxpayers about $4,300 in the current fiscal year and $5,750 over the next calendar year – money that Simpson County had cut from the budget in a lean budget year. Mississippi Adequate Education Funds have already been cut for the Simpson County public schools for kids who aren’t in trouble. The county already has two other appointed public defenders. But Buffington is going to force the Simpson County Board of Supervisors to pay Diaz and there’s nothing they can do about it.
But who should be surprised. Buffington, in 2006, sought re-election to his chancery judgeship while simultaneously running for an open seat on the state Court of Appeals.