WATER VALLEY – A budget request from Third Chancery District Senior Chancellor Percy Lynchard at the “first Monday” Board of Supervisor on June 5 meeting sparked a dialogue about Chancery Court in the county. In a letter addressed to Board Attorney John Crow, Lynchard wrote he would seek pay raises for his law clerks after they have completed the required time as clerks and now are entitled to a classification as staff attorney, prompting a raise under Administrative Office of the Courts (ACO) guidelines.
The letter also said the deputy court administrator salary for Chancellor Vicki Daniels was raised last year, prompting Chancellor Mitch Lundy and Lynchard to request similar pay increases for their deputy court administrators under ACO guidelines in the coming year.
Lynchard’s letter requested each county in the Third Chancery Court District contribute proportionally for the increase according to their court load, as in the current budget.
Lynchard also noted that he has kept budget increases to a minimum in previous years.
“Let me tell, these guys are the boss,” Crow explained about the request. “They will show you they are the boss. And I have been the subject of the fire of a couple of chancellors, none of which are in this jurisdiction. They will show you who is the boss and you will get the message. Usually it affects you financially. That doesn’t mean you have to take anything off of them,” Crow continued.
“Percy Lynchard is by far our best Chancellor. He is Supreme Court caliber. He is a good Chancellor,” Crow continued
“To give you an example, and I may be out of line, we didn’t have a bailiff in a Chancery Court term not long ago and Judge (Mitch) Lundy raised cain over it,” Crow said
“I don’t know what the problem is, but it cost this lady some money,” Crow said, pointing to Chancery Clerk Amy McMinn.
“And continues to because he has moved the next term to Batesville. Which means anybody in our constituency here in this county that has a court case has to go to Batesville,” Amy McMinn added. “And I maintain, I don’t care if you are a judge, he was out of line. There is no need to cuss at an individual, or up and down the hall using the term ‘GD’ in the main hall of the Coffeeville courthouse in front of women and children. He can take all of his court somewhere else, as far as I am concerned.”
“Just hold on,” Crow said. “I know he was probably out of line and as I understand it, he said he was.
“To who?” McMinn asked.
“I am not going to tell you, but he probably should have told you that. But he didn’t. And that is just the way it goes. That is not right and I don’t like some of the things that go on. But when you wear the robe, you wear the robe,” Crow said.
Crow also cited a previous example involving a retired circuit judge when the board was dealing with court days and the fact the county didn’t have court on some days during the scheduled court session and didn’t pay the circuit clerk when court wasn’t in session even though it was scheduled.
“I got a call from the judge, Andy Baker, he was just before issuing a show cause order of why you didn’t comply with his order to pay the clerk,” Crow recalled.
“That still doesn’t make it right,” McMinn said.
“Let’s clarify this, it was before my time,” Circuit Clerk Daryl added.
“It was a long time before Daryl,” Crow said.
“He told me that the audit department and attorney general’s office doesn’t run the 17th Circuit Judicial District,” Crow recalled about the call from former judge Baker.
The conversation then shifted back to the matter at hand about Lynchard’s request.
“He also is a judge in one of those contamination suits, the one in Grenada,” Crow said about Lynchard. “I am not telling you what to do, y’all can face the music. But we are only talking about three percent,” Crow said about the county’s share of the court cost.
“We only have three, one-week terms of court in Yalobusha County. So yes, it is three percent,” McMinn explained about the limited court in the Third District which also includes DeSoto, Panola, Grenada and Montgomery counties.
“Well, that doesn’t mean you won’t get more,” Crow said.
“He just moved one of my three-week terms to Batesville,” McMinn added.
“Lynchard didn’t,” Crow noted.
“Lundy did,” McMinn said “I am betting I am not going to get any more,” she said.
=“I would like to say, John, I am in complete support of taking care of what their requests are,” Board President Cayce Washington said. “But we do support two courthouses on both ends of the county and I understand they have the power to do as they wish. It is unfortunate that they will throw a fit and withhold people from our county to have their hearings and their court appearances because they get sideways with something that they don’t like – whether it be our internet service or come in and decide to come in and cuss up and down the hall way.”
“You are saying in retaliation, they could vote in a different way on the TCE contamination case?” McMinn asked.
“No, I am not, and I have a problem with you even asking that,” Crow countered.
“That was implied about five minutes ago,” McMinn said.
“Let’s put that away. The three percent I think is not out of line. But I do have a problem with them asking to support their staff, and their staff isn’t showing up to our county on what is a routine schedule, it sounds like, because they get upset about something,” Washington said. “I would like them to utilize our court rooms as it is designed and give us our fair three percent venue time as they do the others.”
“Yalobusha County circuit and chancery has never been a big venue for cases. Places like DeSoto and Tate and Batesville are. So they move it where it is most convenient,” Crow advised, adding he would send a letter out in response to the concerns if supervisors wished.
McMinn then noted that the county went to having 12 one-week Chancery terms a year, to nine, and then to six.
“Then to a letter being issued to this county, if you don’t get your internet services up to speed you won’t have any,” McMinn said, adding the cost is $800 per month for each courthouse for high speed internet. After the internet was updated, McMinn said she didn’t get the six weeks of court back.
“But do you need it?” Crow asked.
“Our case load actually increased last year over the year before, and some other counties actually decreased,” McMinn said.
“I know you and Daryl don’t make what other clerks make, you don’t,” Crow said.
“I am not worried about that,” McMinn, but I have a payroll to make, she added, referring to the funding that comes from court fees that pay part of her staff.
Crow said he remembered when the caseload was extremely light, but the clerks got paid for the scheduled court even when it wasn’t held.
“And I don’t have a problem with that,” Crow added about the pay for the clerks.
“I do, I only get paid for the amount of days that I am there,” McMinn said.
“I don’t want to get in to that,” Washington said, directing the conversation back to the requested raise.
“And I didn’t bring up the issue of cussing in the courthouse,” McMinn added.
Washington then added he wanted them to utilize the courtroom as scheduled.
Next the amount of the request was tallied and came to $510 per month, after which supervisors indicated they would grant the request.