Board has plan to address large legal caseload

Published 12:01 am Thursday, January 24, 2008

NATCHEZ — When former Adams County attorney Bob Latham was not rehired by the board of supervisors, he left behind a large caseload.

And as the first month of the year comes to its end, the board and their newly-appointed interim attorney, Bobby Cox, may have come to a plan to resolve the county’s leftover litigation.

At a meeting on Tuesday, board members and Cox discussed a plan that newly elected board President Henry Watts feels will quickly rectify many of the county’s outstanding legal issues.

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Watts said for the first part of his plan he wants to meet with Cox and review each case to determine what cases can be finished most quickly or to see which cases are most pressing for the county.

Watts said he wants focus on cases dealing with “basic human needs.”

The second part of Watts’ plans deals with actually closing the cases.

“Some of these cases have been going on for several years,” he said.

So, in the interest of closing the cases, Watts has proposed an idea to the board that essentially allows Cox to hire out cases he does not have time to handle or that can be handled by another attorney specializing in a certain field.

These secondary attorneys would then handle the cases on their own and report to Cox as a means for oversight.

Cox said he has faith in the plan.

“I think it can work,” he said.

In addition to being a feasible plan, Cox said he thinks the system could also save money for the county.

Cox’s time spent on oversight of cases that would be given to secondary attorneys is not time that he will bill the county for.

“We want to work on them (cases) and get rid of them,” he said.

Cox said he has seen the proposed plan in action in other counties and has seen positive results.

And for the most part, Watts has gotten positive feedback from the board on his new plan.

Supervisor Darryl Grennell said he would be open to the plan provided the board has adequate oversight over the attorney Cox elects to handle a case.

“We need to know who we will be hiring,” he said. “It’s in the best interest of the county.”

Grennell said in his 10 years on the board he can remember only a few instances when an outside attorney was called in.

In those cases, Grennell said there was either a conflict of interest with the county attorney or the expertise of a case specific lawyer were needed.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said using a secondary attorney that has expertise in one area would be ultimately beneficial to the county.

On Wednesday evening, Watts said he and Cox had not yet discussed any specific cases that could possibly be handled by a second attorney nor had they discussed which cases were to be handled first.