Municipal judge leaving bench for assistant DA role

Published 3:31 pm Thursday, December 7, 2023

NATCHEZ — Municipal Judge Lisa Jordan Dale is leaving the bench to join District Attorney-Elect Tim Cotton as an assistant DA.

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson congratulated Judge Dale on this new appointment as an assistant district attorney.

“Judge Dale has done an extraordinary job as Municipal Judge and we hate to see her go, but it is good to know that she will continue to serve not only the citizens of Natchez but our surrounding counties as well,” Gibson said.

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Dale said she has worked in the municipal court in various capacities for 28 years and feels that each experience has well-prepared her for the job of assistant DA.

She started in 1995 as a public defender and in 2002 became a prosecutor and continued in that position until she was elected in 2016. These roles and her combined law experience of just under 35 years have prepared her to serve as an ADA, Dale said.

“I have a long history at the municipal court and love it,” she said. “This was a position to put everything I’ve learned in all three roles together effectively in a job.”

Dale said she is in the process of tendering her resignation to the Board of Aldermen that is effective Dec. 31.

The Municipal Judge seat is up for grabs in the April 2 primary election and there will be no special election before then.

“That is one of the things I considered before I took this position,” Dale said. “I did not want the city to have to have a special election.”

Municipal Judge Pro Tempore Jack Lazarus will preside over municipal court until the Board of Aldermen appoints a temporary replacement to fill the gap between now and the election, Gibson said.

“According to state statute, when there is a vacancy in an elective office in a city within six months of an election, the mayor and board of aldermen is given the authority to appoint someone to fill the vacancy. We intend on making a decision regarding this vacancy with both the required expediency and carefulness that this very important position warrants. Until then Municipal Judge Pro Tempore Jack Lazarus will preside over municipal matters.”

Dale said in addition to giving up her seat on the bench, she also must give up her private law practice.

“You cannot practice law while you’re an assistant DA,’ she said. “This all came about last Wednesday and my clients don’t know yet. I have people who can assist my clients and I’m given a six-month period to close out my current cases, so I don’t want any of my clients to worry. I feel I will be able to close out all of my cases in that amount of time.”

Cotton said Dale is in the mix of a team he is building with the capabilities to fit the specific areas of need at the new District Attorney’s office, which in time would mean having an ADA assigned to each of the counties that make up District 6. But first they must, “fix what needs fixing,” he said, adding Dale is part of “a blend of talents, abilities and people that will make that happen.”

Assigning a person to each district involves going through the backlog of existing cases. No one has been assigned to any specific county, he said.

Dale expressed gratitude to the citizens of Natchez for electing her to serve these past seven years and to all of her support staff.

“It was not an easy decision to make but I feel that I can serve the community well as an ADA also and I look forward to taking on that new job. I appreciate DA elect Tim Cotton for having the confidence in me to ask me to join his staff.”