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Southerland seeks permanent youth court prosecutor

Warren County Judge Marcie Southerland would like to see a separately appointed prosecutor for the county’s Youth Court.

Southerland in December signed a court order appointing Vicksburg attorney Lane Campbell as interim youth court prosecuting attorney following the resignation of former County Prosecutor Ken Harper, who served as youth court prosecutor.

“I am requesting that the board allow my order (appointing Campbell) to stand, and the way the board would do that is provide funding for that youth court prosecutor,” Southerland said at a supervisors work session Tuesday. The cost of the position was estimated at about $17,000 a year.

“It should have always been that way,” she said. “There are several counties across this state that have appointed youth court prosecutors and it works beautifully.”

Serving as youth court prosecutor is part of the county prosecutor’s responsibilities under state law. But according to state law, the court can appoint a youth court prosecutor in lieu of or in addition to a county prosecutor.

Having an appointed prosecutor concentrating on youth court cases and an elected county prosecutor handling cases in county and justice court, “It’s a perfect world for our children,” Southerland said.

Harper resigned in September and a special election will be held in November to fill his unexpired term. The supervisors are accepting applications to appoint an interim county prosecutor but no date has been set when the appointment will be made.

Southerland wants the supervisors to let her order appointing Campbell stand during the interim period until the November special election to see whether having a separately appointed youth court prosecutor and a county prosecutor would work.

“And of course we go from there,” she said.

Southerland said the county prosecutor historically has been a part-time position.

Under the law, she said, the county prosecutor could be paid the same as a county supervisor with benefits “and that’s considered a part-time position.

“It’s the (position) not a part-time responsibility; the responsibility remains the same,” Southerland said. “It just allows the county prosecutor to receive that salary plus the monthly stipend for the overhead expense and allows that prosecutor to continue with their (private) law practice.”

The responsibilities, she said, involve going to youth court, justice and county courts when needed and handling monthly appeals from county court. If the prosecutor is paid more than the supervisor’s salary the position is considered full-time.

Harper’s salary as county prosecutor was $76,000 a year. Warren County supervisors are paid $46,000 a year.

District 5 Supervisor Kelle Barfield said using the interim period until the special prosecutor’s election with the interim prosecutor receiving a supervisor’s salary would be a good test period to determine the feasibility of an appointed youth court prosecutor.

Board attorney Blake Teller said some lawyers would take the supervisor’s pay as county prosecutor, “Which makes sense from a budgetary standpoint in the interim period and it may be the way to go into the future.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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