Tuesday, I went down to justice court to visit with new interim Justice Court Judge Scott Colom, who was appointed District 2 judge as a result of Mike Arledge stepping down to run for sheriff. Colom, an attorney (he also writes a weekly column in the Commercial Dispatch) is not only the first black sitting justice judge, but also the youngest person to serve in the position (he’s 28). I sat and spoke with him in his office for an half hour or so. While in his office, County Prosecutor Tim Hudson came in for a visit himself (Hudson is not reeking re-election to the post he has held since 1988).
Colom says he’s looking forward to hearing some cases, but he’s taking his time at the moment, sitting in on current cases coming before the other two judges, Peggy Phillips (District 3 judge) and Chris Hemphill (District 1 judge).
Anyone talking to Scott for the first time will likely get the same impression as I…he’s a delightful young fellow who appears bright, sharp and ready for the task ahead with an open mind. In conversation, he appeared ready to listen to those around him, an important aspect of being a judge who thrives to be fair and impartial.
Colom attended law school at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), graduating in 2009. He also is a 2005 graduate of Millsaps College (History, English). He graduated Columbus High School in 2001.
He was appointed to the post because he wasn’t seeking election to it, as was all the other applicants with the exception of Bill Andrews. Colom says he has no intentions of seeking public office anytime in the future (that could change…he’s young. His dad – Wil – has long been a player in national politics being friends with many prominent Republican and Democrat polticians).
Colom will finish the unexpired term of Arledge (through the end of this year or possibly right after the November general election).
CVB Local/Private Bill Heads To Ways and Means Committee
A bill that would increase the current 6 member CVB board to allow a 9 member board has passed the Mississippi House and headed to the Ways and Means Committee. If successful there (District 37 State Representative Gary Chism – R, Columbus, says he doesn’t see a problem with it passing), the bill will then go to the Senate.
In addition to expanding the 6 member board to 9 members, the bill also broadens the scope of the use of funds collected by the 2 % restaurant tax and allows the CVB board to use the funds for tourism, economic development and special events. Chism is hoping for full Legislative passage of the bill soon.
City Judge Nicole Clinkscales
Last Thursday (March 17th), The Commercial Dispatch ran a front page article (by Ryan Poe) with headlines that read, ‘Records show lack of bias in Columbus judges’s cases’. The article goes on to say that after a CD ‘investigation’, it was determined that Municipal Judge Nicole Clinkscales had not been dismissing or throwing out a disproportionate number of cases brought before her by Columbus Police Officer Lance Luckey, the patrol officer who arrested her for ‘disobeying a police officer’ in June of 08′ (the case took 20 months to get to justice court after being ‘lost’ on late Judge Curtis Austin’s desk. After the prosecutor let Clinkscales and her attorney, Nebra Porter, listen to the police recorded tape of the incident that had supposedly been ‘erased’, Clinkscales entered a ‘no contest’ plea and was fined $100 plus court cost).
I spoke with Ryan Poe Wednesday evening and asked him if he went through the cases one by one. He said that Municipal Court Clerk Lou Dudley and he went through the court docket together to assemble the following numbers of results when Judge Clinkscales was presiding over cases involving Officer Luckey.
Found Guilty: 21
Found Not Guilty: 2
Pleaded Guilty: 8
Retired To Files: 9
I had written in the February 24th Packet (# 920) that a source had told me that Judge Clinkscales had found not guilty or dismissed practically all of Luckey’s cases. Using these numbers (and assuming they’re accurate) saying she had ” thrown out or dismissed or found not guilty practically all of his cases” would not be an accurate statement. But…if you add the ‘Found Not Guilty’ (2) to the ‘Retired To Files’ (9) and add ‘Dismissed’ (7), that totals 18 of Luckey’s cases (and remember that 8 more pleaded guilty) that were disposed of in some form of ‘not being guilty’ one could say. She found 21 ‘guilty’. 18 is nearly half of the cases and, yes, comparable to the late Judge Austin as well as Judge Tommy Wallace…I would bet that’s a disproportionate amount. Often these numbers can be very misleading and they certainly seem so in these cases…misleading the readers to think Judge Clinkscales is being totally fair in overseeing cases involving Luckey. For example: A reader will see, ‘Found Guilty: 21, Found Not Guilty: 2′ and immediately draw the conclusion all is fair. But you have to look at all the cases and numbers.
On top of that, in the two weeks after the police tape went public and opinion was offered on the case by readers of The Packet, The Dispatch, WCBI Channel 4…some suggested that Clinkscales was being ‘attacked’. In my opinion, nothing could be farther from the truth. The audio tape is clear in providing proof that Officer Luckey was professional…and was clearly doing his job and nothing else. A police officer has no idea the situation he is coming upon when someone calls 911. Before they can get a handle on the situation, they must establish control upon arriving at the scene. A hysterical Clinkscales, in this situation, didn’t help matters and brought her pending troubles upon herself…clearly! If she had sat down in her car (as instructed by Luckey several times) i’m betting we wouldn’t be talking about this right now – Clinkscales would be considered a well-respected judge with no baggage – and all would be better in Columbus, likely. Even if she had apologized to Luckey after the incident, again, i’m betting we wouldn’t be where we are. But, no, she followed advice (obviously bad-advice) from city officials that have clearly shown an appearance of impropriety in this situation. And continue to do so by making out like Judge Clinkscales is a ‘victim’ or being ‘attacked’ in some way. Sorry…she brought this upon herself. And where is Chief Joseph St. John on this? Is he going to stand by this police officer – an officer who was clearly performing his duties as he is supposed too – or not (I’m not suggesting he hasn’t stood behind Officer Luckey. But he did offer an opinion that he didn’t think there was any proof of allegations that Clinkscales has thrown out most of Luckey’s cases….just haven’t heard anything out of him in defense of Luckey, though, granted, I haven’t spoken with him about it. RW) Is it possible that Officers’ Pevey and Higgins could ask the same question?
Joe St John and Judge Clinkscales are good people – I don’t think there’s a question there. Both appear to be professional, quality people who are and can make a difference in our community. But it’s time to step-up and take a stand. Don’t let pride or an overly-controlling mayor cloud your jobs as servants of the people. Because in the long run, it’s the people who run this city…not the mayor and council!
I must give credit to Poe and the Dispatch in correctly pointing out that Clinkscales should have likely recused herself from overseeing cases involving Luckey. If she really wants to be the fair and impartial judge she claims she’d like to be, recusing herself from those cases would have been a really good start!
Bob Taylor Resigns From 911 board
Only a couple of weeks after being appointed to the 911 board, Bob Taylor resigned that position. Taylor, who owns Bob’s Towing (I had heard he had passed the business on to his son, though it would still be a conflict of interest) was told by the 911 board attorney that his appointment was indeed a conflict of interest and did the right thing by resigning. I appreciate the fact that Bob wanted to serve the people of Lowndes County in that capacity, but it was clearly a conflict and unfair to other towing company owners.
Board of Supervisors Board President Harry Sanders said the county will now re-advertise the appointment (it’s District 2 Supervisor Frank Ferguson’s appointment). The board has already been advertising another at-large position on the 911 board and intends to fill the position at the next board meeting on April 4th.
Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com0