by: Ron Williams
Recently appointed Columbus City Judge Nicole Clinkscales’ misdemeanor charge of ‘failure to obey a police officer’ has yet to be heard by a court after more than 17 months have passed. Clinkscales was appointed one of two city judges, recently, to fill the void left by the passing of Judge Curtis Austin back in October of last year.
Clinkscales was reportedly beating her juvenile son with a belt back on June 23rd of 09′. A complainant called 911 to report the incident. The following is the article that Roger Larsen (Packet editor at the time) wrote in The Packet in June of 09′, followed by the police report.
Article from The Packet:
Columbus attorney and drug court judge Nicole Clinkscales was arrested at her home on June 23 (09′) during a disturbance at her home involving her juvenile son and a neighbor. She was charged with failure to obey a police officer.
Police were dispatched to 412 East Gaywood Ave. a little after 9:00 p.m. after a complainant called 911 to report that Clinkscales was beating her son with a belt. The police report says that when the officer neared the scene the complainant flagged him down to tell him what was going on. According to the report, while the complainant was talking to the officer, Clinkscales was “doing a lot of screaming and hollering at the complainant.” Clinkscales allegedly ignored the officer’s warnings to calm down and stop shouting at the complainant. She allegedly refused the officer’s command to get into her car and was then arrested for failure to obey.[Later details emerged of a quote from Clinkscales:”I have rights, I’m an attorney, and I’ll call Chief St. John.”
The report states that the complainant called E-911 because she saw Clinkscales beating her son with a belt at 607 North Gaywood Ave. “and thought she had gotten out of control with the beating.” The complainant said that she asked Clinkscales to stop beating her son and that Clinkscales then followed her home.
Police believe that the alleged beating was in responce for something that the juvenile had done to the Clinkscales house.
Attorney Richard Burdine apparently helped talk Judge Austin into delaying the case, with Austin eventually recusing himself from hearing it. The case sat on Austin’s desk for 6-8 months before finally being transfered to Lowndes County Justice Court. Monday, I asked court clerks at justice court for a copy of the transfer order and was told I couldn’t get one because the case hasn’t gone to trial yet (I’ll try again this week with a written request). I’ve heard that the case is in the hands of Circuit Judge Lee Howard (who would appoint a justice court judge, possibly Judge Mills of Oktibbeha County, to hear the case in justice court. Local judges will probably be recused from hearing the case. Justice Court Judge Mike Arledge had intended to hear it, but he’ll be resigning next week to run for sheriff..so he won’t be there). Lowndes County Prosecutor Tim Hudson had already asked the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors to remove him from the case..for obvious reasons (Hudson is also city prosecutor, therefore hearing cases that come before Judge Clinkscales). Hudson has said that the Noxubee County prosecutor will prosecute the case whenever it comes to trial. I had also heard that the case was set for February 22nd at justice court, but that also hasn’t been confirmed and appears unlikely at this point.
Lowndes County Justice Court:
Justice Court Judge Mike Arledge, as previously mentioned, will resign his judge position next week to file qualifying papers to run for Lowndes County sheriff as a Republican. Tuesday, I sat in on what will likely be his last criminal court day as a judge as he presided over misdemeanor cases at Lowndes County Justice Court. Retired Mississippi Highway Patrolman Wyatt Mills had already qualified to run for the position that Arledge now holds (Mills filed to run in 2003, but pulled out when Arledge ran), and last week, former Judge Ron Cooke qualified to run. Cooke held the position for two terms prior to giving it up to run for sheriff in 2003. He was defeated by incumbent Butch Howard and Arledge was elected to his first of two terms that year as judge.
This all means that the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors would need to appoint a judge to fill the remaining year of Arledge’s term. There has been talk that they might not appoint a judge (to avoid giving Mills or Cooke an advantage if either were to be appointed because they are running against each other) and wait for the winner of the race (both are running as Republicans and the winner will be determined in the August primary, provided no one else qualifies before March 1st to run for the position). But, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Here’s why: There are currently 3 justice court judges – Arledge, Judge Peggy Phillips and Judge Chris Hemphill. Although the judges alternate weeks on the bench (once every three weeks), Hemphill is an attorney with a private practice and also serves as attorney for the Noxubee County Board of Supervisors. Other than his particular week on the bench..he’s rarely available. With Arledge gone (Judge Arledge and Judge Phillips spend a good bit of time in their offices even when it’s not their week on the bench..making them available to issue warrants and provide preliminary hearings for prisoners, which often happens daily. Without a judge available for a preliminary hearing, many prisoners might have to spend needless time sitting in jail when they could be out working at their jobs, if they have one..awaiting trial), that leaves only Judge Phillips to handle the load..and that’s not fair nor practical. So, the supes need to consider these important facts and appoint a judge.
I’ve spoken with Wyatt Mills about this very subject. Wyatt and his wife, Sue, are very nice folks. But the county’s justice court system, and its ability to operate without a hitch, is at stake here. Advantage or not, Cooke could walk in and do that job, next week, and the justice court system would never miss a beat..because of his nearly two-term prior (and recent) experience as judge. Tack on the fact that Cooke has been working closely with justice court in probation services ever since his defeat running for sheriff in 2003. And he has been to all the schools and classes justice court judges must attend! (Those class hours will increase dramatically next year from 32 to 80 due to recent Legislative action, as well as new judges will have to pass a competency test that no other elected official will have to take..and certainly no other type of judge in the state has to take). And to use an example of prior experience being important when it comes to being a justice court judge – In 2003 when Cooke resigned his judges position to run for sheriff, the supervisors appointed former Judge Chauncey Green ( and one of my all-time favorite people) to fill the term, mainly because of his prior experience. It’s important. Certainly everyone has to start somehwere…but if there is someone out there with the experience – as Cooke has – it’s just not wise to overlook that and put undue pressure and uncertainty on the clerks and other personnel at justice court, and even Wyatt Mills knows this. I’m sure he would understand..he’s a rational and wise individual, for sure.0