Judge seeks money for law clerk

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 19, 2009

NATCHEZ — Chancery Judge George Ward needs a law clerk, and he has almost enough money to hire one.

That was the message he took to the Adams County Board of Supervisors Monday.

The legislature has appropriated $40,000 to all state-level judges to hire a law clerk, and while Ward has not used that money in the last year, he said he feels it is time.

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“If I take a case under advisement, and I have cases to hear for the rest of the month, I don’t get to sit down and write that opinion,” Ward said.

Having a clerk would speed that process, but $40,000 just isn’t enough to hire a law clerk, he said.

“It is difficult to hire a clerk for that amount of money,” Ward said. “If you hire a law student or someone just out of law school, that’s feasible, but that’s not what I hope to do. I want someone with experience who will want to stay for several years.”

The judge’s proposal was for Adams County to pay between 50 and 52 percent of the funds that would make the difference between the $40,000 allotment and a $50,000 salary with benefits.

That would come out to a monthly contribution from Adams County between a $1,126 to $1,300, Ward said.

The other counties Ward serves are Claiborne, Jefferson and Wilkinson, and Ward’s proposal would have them contribute to the law clerk fund based on the rate of cases the judge hears from each county.

Those counties have not been approached yet, because Adams County would be the biggest contributor, Ward said.

Supervisor Darryl Grennell made a motion that the county administrator look at the court’s budget of $150,000 — which is shared with Judge Kennie Middleton — to see if it can be amended to pull funds from it.

If the budget cannot be amended, Grennell moved that the board give the court the funds, a motion that was passed.

The supervisors also passed a motion to allow purchasing clerk Rosa Wilson to advertise for bids for storm debris removal.

The purpose of having the contractors submit bids now is so if the county opts to use contract labor for debris removal in the future, it will already have contracts in place and will not have to wait for the advertising process to be completed before hiring, Grennell said.

But whether or not the county will be compensated for debris removal from past storms — Hurricane Gustav in particular — is still in question.

County Administrator Cathy Walker said she has been in contact with Mississippi Emergency Management Agency officials, which wants the county to tell them what it will cost to remove debris from the staging sites where it currently sits to a landfill.

The MEMA officials will then present the costs to Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, who will decide whether or not to approve reimbursing the costs, Walker said.

Likewise, Walker said she has not heard anything from MEMA officials about if the county could get another extension for their May 20 deadline for reimbursement for the removal of debris.

When the debris is removed, whole trees would have to be cut to a certain size before a landfill would accept them.

“I would like to see these (trees) chipped so they could be used rather than in a landfill taking up space,” Grennell said.

The emergency management agencies want the trees removed whole because it is cheaper, Walker said.

“I agree with Darryl, but the main thing is we need to be reimbursed,” President Henry Watts said.

In other news:

4The board voted to close nominations to fill a vacancy on the Natchez-Adams County School Board.

The board will set up interviews soon, Watts said.

Those who have been nominated include Cleveland Watts; Cynthia Barfield; David Troutman; Pam Frank; Terry McGruder; Wayne Barnett; David Timm and Nellie Wimberly.

4Because the governor has issued a proclamation to the same effect, the board voted to declare July 6 the official county holiday to observe Independence Day. July 4 falls on a Saturday this year.

4The board passed a resolution stating that they did not know of any protests against the issuance of bonds for its upcoming road project.

4The board passed a resolution stating it would match a Community Development Block Grant for the road project if the county received it.