Chief Justice questions Vines’ award

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 1, 2001

NATCHEZ – A certificate hanging on the wall in the Adams County Circuit Clerk’s office troubles state Supreme Court Justice Edwin L. Pittman.

The award, given to Circuit Clerk M.L. &uot;Binkey&uot; Vines last month, appears on the surface to be an honor bestowed upon Vines by the high court.

But Pittman said the award is an act of two individual justices, not the entire court.

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&uot;My concern is there is an appearance that the court has done this when it has not,&uot; he said.

The certificate, posted on the wall in Vine’s office, stated that the honor was awarded by the justices of the Mississippi Supreme Court but only listed the names of Justices Charles Easley and Charles McRae.

&uot;There is no such award,&uot; Pittman said. &uot;This court has not considered any such award.&uot;

Pittman speculated the reason for the award stemmed from McRae’s upcoming run for reelection.

&uot;I expect it’s an act of pure politics,&uot; he said.

Easley and McRae presented the award to Vines for his service in office. Whether Vines deserved the award is not the issue, Pittman said, adding his concern was to preserve the institution of the court and its actions.

&uot;I wish Mr. (M.L. &uot;Binkey) Vines luck,&uot; Pittman said. &uot;But this is not an act of the Supreme Court.&uot;

Pittman said he had polled several other members of the court and none of them had heard of this award.

These two justices appear to have acted independently of the court, Pittman said. The court can only act through its minutes and it had not done so in this case.

For the court to take such an action, it should have been the vote of the majority, he said.

The court first became aware of the award after receiving inquires from other counties as to the award and the criteria surrounding the award, Pittman said.

Pittman said he had yet to mention the matter to Easley or McRae, but he expects the matter to come up soon.

Vines said he was not aware of concerns surrounding the award, but was notified by Easley and McRae that he was to receive it.

&uot;They called me and asked me to come up (to Jackson) and receive the award, and that’s what I did,&uot; he said.

In a press release issued at the time of the award, Easley said he honored Vines for his &uot;outstanding leadership, innovation and excellent service to the court.&uot;

He also praised Vines for his efforts to collect overdue court fines.

Since his election about two years ago, Vines has collected more than $180,000 in delinquent fines, Easley said in the release.

McRae said he participated in the award because he looks for the good in people and not the negative.

&uot;I think (Vines) did a tremendous job in collecting back fees,&uot; he said.

McRae said he had no problem with honoring people in this way.

&uot;And I’ll be glad to compliment people when I see them doing something right again,&uot; he said.

Easley could not be reached for comment Friday.