Vess fined, publicly reprimanded in court

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, August 8, 2017

By Lyndy Berryhill

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — A public reprimand in the Adams County Circuit Court Monday will not deter former Justice Court Judge Charlie Vess from considering running for office in the future.

Email newsletter signup

One year after the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance recommended to the Mississippi Supreme Court that Vess be admonished for his actions from the bench, Adams County Circuit Court Judge Forrest ‘Al’ Johnson issued the public reprimand in his courtroom Monday morning.

Vess accepted the reprimand with no comment Monday.

After the brief proceeding, Vess said he would enjoy spending one more term in public office. Vess said he will not seek re-election to his former office but is not opposed to running for another office in the future.

Vess said he was considering possibly running for county circuit clerk in 2019.

Monday’s reprimand was ordered by the Mississippi Supreme Court in April in addition to a 30-day suspension with no pay and a $1,100 fine as well as $200 in court costs.

The commission’s recommendation was the ninth time since 1992 the watchdog agency faulted Vess for his actions.

The commission made the latest recommendation after remarks Vess made in court toward defendant Michael Thompson and his mother.

Vess told Thompson he might shoot him because the defendant kept his hands in his pockets after the judge asked him to remove them. Vess also later questioned his mother’s parenting skills by citing his charges.

Vess said he was acting less like a judge and more as a father.

Vess said the fines are not small, but he would not have retired if he had known those would have been the only stipulations. Vess said he was advised in an informal meeting the recommendation would have been to have him removed from office.

Vess said his decision to retire in December 2016 came at a time when he and his wife were also in poor health.

After 40 years of serving in the judicial branch of Adams County government, Vess estimates he has presided over 25,000 cases.

He said his former post is one of the busiest in the area and sees 3,000 to 5,000 criminal and civil cases every year.