Monday, June 29, 2015

Become a judge, no experience required.

A Rankin County ruckus erupted earlier this month at the regular meeting of the Rankin County Board of Supervisors as the two Chancellors confronted the Supervisors over the promotion of a law clerk to family master.

 1:15:00 - Supervisors reject nomination.  1:45:00- Chancellors confront Supervisors



Governor Phil Bryant appointed Rankin County Family Master John McLaurin to the vacant position of Rankin County Chancellor* after Chancellor Dan Fairly committed suicide.  Thus Chancellors John Grant and John McLaurin nominated  Haydn Roberts to the vacant Family Master position.  The Supreme Court approved the nomination and the Chancellors submitted it to the board.  Mr. Roberts was the full-time law clerk for Chancellor Grant and is a candidate for the recently-created third Chancellor position in Rankin County.

Supervisor Walter Johnson moved to appoint Mr. Roberts to the Family Master position but the motion died for lack of a second.  The supervisors said they were reluctant to appoint a current candidate to the job so as to avoid giving him an unfair advantage in his election.



Both Chancellors descended on the board not more than twenty minutes later as they expressed outrage over the rejection of their nomination.  Chancellor Grant repeatedly said Mr. Roberts was a candidate for Chancellor and was not running for Family Master.  The Chancellors said they were facing an emergency situation as there were thousands of cases set for trial and they could not afford to wait for the board to take weeks to decide upon an appointment.  Chancellor Grant said the Supreme Court had already approved the nomination of Mr. Roberts and there was no reason for the board to deny the appointment.  The board reluctantly agreed and approved the appointment of the law clerk on a 4-1 vote.  Supervisor Rodney Keith voted against the appointment.

Kingfish note: That was the news, now for the opinion.  The Chancellors might be mad at the board but it is the Chancellors who put themselves in this position.  It was well-known that Mr. McLaurin submitted his name to Governor Bryant for appointment to the vacant Chancellor position.   The scuttlebutt downtown and in Brandon was that he had the inside track for the appointment.  These two Chancellors can't claim it was a big shock to them that the Family Master position was vacant when they knew for weeks this would probably happen.

Mr. Roberts is a law <i>clerk</i>.  Welcome to the Rankin County judicial intern program.  Enter the courthouse as a clerk, leave as a judge.   No actual practice as an attorney is required.  There are plenty of qualified attorneys in Rankin County who would have accepted an appointment to Family Master.  The appointment is an insult to the bar of Rankin County.  The only reason the so-called emergency existed was because the judges created it.  They could have spoken to several lawyers and had a short list of three to four names ready for nomination.  

It doesn't matter how talented or smart Mr. Roberts is.  No one is questioning his character. Indeed, mutual friends speak highly of him and his abilities.  However, the fact remains that the Chancellors appointed their clerk to the position and created an appearance of favoritism.    The appointment smacks of the good ole boy politics that has stained Rankin County's reputation for decades. 

*<i>JJ</i> can confirm that Rankin County Board of Supervisors attorney Craig Slay and Rankin County attorney Troy Odom also submitted their names to the Governor for consideration.

56 comments:

Jeff Rimes said...

As a member of the Rankin County bar and someone who practices in Chancery Court on a daily basis, I did not consider the appointment of Haydn' Roberts as family master to be an "insult." To refer to him as a "law clerk" is a gross misrepresentation of his experience and abilities. The chancellors have the right to choose a family master, an appointed judge who hears temporary hearings and child support matters. Of course, there are many qualified attorneys but the Rankin County chancellors are men of integrity who take public service seriously. They would not have appointed someone who would not serve the public and the judicial system well. Roberts will do an excellent job.

Kingfish said...

There are plenty of clerks at the Mississippi Supreme Court. All attorneys and very smart. Yet I wouldn't consider any of them for an immediate appointment to the position of judge.

Anonymous said...

The title of this column is painfully ironic.

Jeff Rimes said...

As a former Supreme Court law clerk, I can say there is a difference in an appellate law clerk and an attorney who functions as a staff attorney in chancery court. James Walker, Judge Brewer's long-time staff attorney, was appointed as family master as he began his private practice. Now, Walker is almost certain to be Madison County's next chancellor after a relatively short time in private practice and after serving ably as family master. Contrary to what our host believes, Haydn' Roberts does have experience on private matters and as a mediator. Both of these men who serve as family masters in our area are going to be excellent chancellors.

Anonymous said...

Rimes,

Nice Job kissing the law clerk & Judge's butt with that post.

Has this guy ever handled a chancery case as an attorney? A simple ID divorce even? This just isn't right. KF is right, this is some Rankin County home cooking.

This gives Roberts a leg up in the election because the public already views him as a "judge." They don't know the difference between a family master and an elected chancellor.

Anonymous said...

Although Haydn has served as law clerk for nearly 8 years and this experience is nonetheless invaluable, he has not handled a case for a client. Outside preparation is vital to understanding what attorneys and their clients actually go through. What about the numerous attorneys in Rankin County who have served 10+, 20+, 30+ years? If I were them, I would feel slighted. Watching a case is much different than preparing for a case. I believe Haydn has skills and talent, but at the same time, this will carry someone so far as a judge.

This also begs the question: what about conflicts of interest? Haydn has "advised" many attorneys on certain matters. Haydn cannot preside over cases he has advised on. This would certainly disqualify Haydn from hearing modifications and contempt actions on numerous cases.

Johnny Weir said...

This is your typical fight about having a license vs. no license.
You see this with doctors vs. nurses ordering prescriptions and encroaching on the doctor's territory.
Also, about veternarians vs. farmers buying animal prescriptions.

Anonymous said...

After Faye Peterson was defeated, her buds got her the job as family master in Hinds County. As far as I know, she'd had NO experience in family law at the time.

Anonymous said...

I guess Rimes did not want to leave any butt unkissed, so he posted a second time about Walker.

Anonymous said...

10:03, Mr. Roberts is a member of the bar. Your analogies are not relevant.

Handbasket Anyone? said...

First thing ya know, Boards of Supervisors will be appointing 'stay at home moms' to oversee half a billion dollar county budgets. And we'll have unlicensed law school grads running blogs and opining on legal matters.

Anonymous said...

I have seen Roberts' campaign materials. His slogan is "Rankin for Roberts." What an egomaniac. Even egomaniacs like Tater would at least use the slogan "Tater for Mississippi," not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

This appointment absolutely shows favoritism. "Both of these men who serve as family masters in our area are going to be excellent chancellors"... Seriously Mr. Rimes? I know it's Rankin County, but I don't believe that an inexperienced, holier than thou, 30-something law clerk will make a suitable Chancellor. It's too important of a job.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes...well those with actual experience and expertise are " elitists" so since we let any village idiot opine on our National interests, why not let all those with inadequate knowledge of the subject at hand make important decisions. Spiro would have been happy with that!

Saltwaterpappy said...

It's my understanding that for the last several years, Mr. Roberts' clerkship has been part-time, and that he has indeed maintained a private practice where he is allowed to handle anything that might come his way. Perhaps, the chancellors have had the opportunity to work with him in all respects. Also, Retired U.S. Magistrate John Roper served in that position for over 40 years. He was appointed by the U.S. District Judges in the Southern District at the time. Prior to his appointment, he had worked as a law clerk, but he never practiced law. Throughout his career he distinguished himself among the bench and bar as the best trial judge in MS. At one time his peers elected him to be President of the U.S. Magistrate Association. Perhaps, Mr. Roberts is another Judge Roper in the making. Of course, who better would believe this than the judges who have observed him for over 8 years.

Anonymous said...

Hey Haydn's Dad uh I mean "saltwaterpappy,"

So are you saying that he took a full time law clerk salary and maintained a private law practice on the side? Excuse me but I would assume the State of Mississippi would have a problem with that. I checked out his campaign website and he sure doesn't make the claim that he had a private practice and/or cheated the State out of money.

Also, just so I this straight that your argument is "he may not have any experience but what the heck it work out once before, so just try it out for a while." Seriously?! Have we not done that in our history before? Just tried out an inexperienced person? Two names come to mind.....George W. Bush and Barrack Obama. Yea that worked out just great.

Really? said...

Governor Bush of Texas had no experience? Really?

Anonymous said...

CHANCERY Clerk Larry Swales is a large part of this event. He'd been courting Roberts all over the County prior to the propped up "urgent" need for the Board needing to approve the appointment. Swales was also one pushing for the Order from the Judges to build a new CHANCERY courthouse and the word on the street is Wanna Be King Larry is working his candidates in order to control the new Board of Supervisors coming on in January. At least 3 new supervisors are guaranteed for next year and three simple votes can move a mountain and a lot of other things.

Anonymous said...

12:14,

I have heard that Swales & the Judges are pushing for Roberts. Why is that? Why would you push for a law clerk with no practical experience to be Judge when there are far more qualified lawyers in the race? Something smells really, really bad.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know under what circumstances a Chancery Clerk needs to hire outside legal support and is Family Master Roberts being paid to do legal work for the Chancery Clerk's office?

Anonymous said...

Coincidence? Just noticed silver hair aka "blue" (pill) texting after the 1:15:00 - Supervisors reject nomination and before the 1:45:00- Chancellors confront Supervisors

Anonymous said...

Some people say the chancery doesn't want any new blood poking around their business at the court house. That is exactly why Rankin County should get new people in those offices at this point.

Anonymous said...

1:21,

You are correct. Swales is texting in that video and then the Judges magically appear. Hmmm. I hope the voters read this and vote against the rankin county establishment.

Anonymous said...

Well know you are finally on to something... Of course Swales is supporting this along with the other judges, they don't want anyone new in.. Talk about back door good ol'boy politics if someone knew comes in... Then Swales will have to answer for why he is being paid so much extra, and how his assistant 2 children are going to JACKSON PREP but yet she is sueing her ex husband for not paying child support... And why you ask why Mr. Roberts is being paid to do legal work for chancery clerks office... Hmm maybe bc they don't trust anyone one else in the books and to keep their mouth shut!!!! ITS TIME FOR A CHANGE!!! And SWALES NEEDS TO GO FOR ONE!

Anonymous said...


Jennifer Ortega Danielle Avitable or Megan West-Allen? The voters may need Grant to issue another Order.

Anonymous said...

9:24 AM I think your host is pointing out the fact the appointment was clearly political. What he doesn't point out is that Roberts bought in and is now officially part of the chancery's plan to control. He is not running based on his merits but on what the powers tell you are his merits.

Anonymous said...

Haydn Roberts doesn't even meet the minimum required qualifications for Chancery Court Judge.

Article 6, Section 154, of the Mississippi Constitution sets forth the qualification requirements for Chancery Court judges. One of these requirements is that the candidate have been a "practicing lawyer for five years".

Haydn Roberts has only served as the law clerk for the Chancery Court in Rankin County since he passed the bar. He has not practiced law for the required minimum five year period of time. Thus, he is not be qualified to run as a candidate for Chancery Court and his name should be removed from the ballot. Hopefully the people at the Secretary of State's office will look into this before certifying the candidates.

Canon 4.G of the Code of Judicial Conduct specifically provides that "A judge must also make reasonable efforts to ensure that the judge's staff, court officials and others subject to the judge's direction and control do not practice law in a representative capacity." In view of this provision of the Code of Judicial Conduct, it is clear that serving as a law clerk for the Chancery Court would not be considered as practicing law, since the practice of law by the Judge's staff is specifically prohibited by this Judicial Canon.

Since Roberts has not practiced law for at least five (5) years, he fails to meet the minimum qualifications set forth in Section 154 of the Mississippi Constitution and he should be disqualified from running for this position.

David Frazier a/k/a Saltwaterpappy said...

Hey Ano at 8:19 p.m.--I'm not related to Mr. Roberts. But I did watch him grow up, and I am impressed with the way he has acquitted himself in adulthood as an attorney, husband, father, friend, and leader among his peers. I was merely attempting to demonstrate that there is recent precedent for Mississippians having a great trial judge who came to office directly from being a law clerk. The only thing about Mr. Roberts that gives me pause is that I wish we had more young people of his strong character and abilities working in the law. Time will demonstrate that the same qualities that have propelled him into being a leader throughout his life, will continue to do so throughout his legal career.

Anonymous said...

Where were all you people bitching about experience when Kay Cobb was appointed to the Supreme Court? Or when Josiah Coleman was elected to the Supreme Court? I would think experience there as a lawyer or a judge would be more important than ever. Nevertheless, two attorneys who didn't know what a trial was received appointment and election to the highest court. Makes sense to me.

Find The Sushi said...

"...Coincidence? Just noticed silver hair aka "blue" (pill) texting after the 1:15:00 - Supervisors reject nomination and before the 1:45:00- Chancellors confront Supervisors..."

What in hell's bells is that poster saying ^^^?

Anonymous said...

Candidate event lastt night in south rankin and of course all the rumors are stirring but the one that made the least amount of sense was that Wilcox would fire all chancery clerk employees. Wilcox as a successful department head at Flowood fully understands he needs the people that actually make Larry all that money to stick around and help him as the new clerk do the same and more. The difference is Wilcox is happy with the cap. Last year that would mean Wilcox would gross $90k in lieu of Larry's $182k resulting in an additional $92k back to the county for just that one year. Do the math as this is Larry's 8th year as Clerk and 28th year at the county trough.

Anonymous said...


We have a few law clerks interning at my office this summer. I told them they should quit now and head over to the Rankin Chancery Court because they have the most aggressive advancement program in state history.

All kidding aside, this is truly an embarrassment to our state's bar when members of the judiciary are advocating a law clerk to become the next Judge. Not only have they done this by simply encouraging him to run, which in itself is absurd, they are trying to fix the election. Shame on you Rankin County.

Anonymous said...

I am not a member of the bar, but I am a licensed practitioner of another profession. My initial impression would be that a licensed attorney clerking under a judge would be considered to be practicing his/her profession. Is this not correct? Can someone in the bar who is familiar with this define "practicing" in this context?

Anonymous said...

9:57,

As member of the bar, I think, unfortunately, that it does count. It really shouldn't because this candidate has no actual practical experience. In order to be Judge you should have actually represented a client in some capacity.

Anonymous said...

I like Hadyn & I don't know if clerking will qualify in the books as "practice", but it ain't practice.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone here realize that you don't have to have any experience in law to be appointed a Supreme Court Justice? And yes, I've researched the justices who were appointed and all have some sort of law experience/teaching.

Then will we look at justice court judges?

Nope, no dog in this hunt, just a comment.

Saltwaterpappy said...

He has represented private clients on a limited basis over the years. Ask him!

Anonymous said...

The AOC guidelines say its not practice. I am sure this will be made an issue shortly.

Anonymous said...

1:24, appellate & trial judges have very different jobs.

Anonymous said...

What in the world interest does the Sheriff have in this seeming political incest? There may be a bigger problem here than seems to exist on the surface. The footage was odd. I also agree with the lawyers commenting. They could have avoided an appearance of impropriety in appointment. The rumor mill has become a serious political Device aimed at keeping justice out of office. The fact that rumors were allegedly flying at an event for an absolutely great Circuit Judge candidate with a fine record...Miller...is not acceptable. I would hate to know that an event for a great candidate was used to forward somebody's rumour objective. Spreading rumors about Supervisors àt an event like that is disrepectful to your Circuit Judge candidate.

Anonymous said...

The question to me is why is the "good ole boy" club pushing this guy? Check out his website. Its basically "I love Jesus, so vote for me." He doesn't have any qualifications.

Anonymous said...

2:08 Please point to me to anything I said that related to your comment.

Like I said, no dog in the hunt so I really don't give a shit. Just made a comment regarding legal experience for two offices.

Anonymous said...

Saltwaterpappy,

It is my understanding that the law clerk is a full time position which is why Mr. Roberts had to resign from his job to accept the Family Master position. If it is a part time position which allow him to see private clients (as you claim) then why resign? There are many people in Rankin County that hold multiple part time positions with the county. Fact of the matter is Mr. Roberts has 8 years of experience. Some very good attorney's that if Mr. Roberts had to face in litigation he would find himself falling extremely short in a court of law SHOULD HAVE been considered for the Family Master position. I believe Mr. Roberts probably is a good person, but being a good person does not make you qualified to be a Judge. However,it must be nice to sit on the coast and have such strong opinions of how you think things should go up here in Rankin County.

Anonymous said...

2:21, I, too, would like to know why Bryan Bailey is in the middle of this. He seemed pretty passionate about it too.. That pig smells fishy.

Anonymous said...


3:28, you are correct that being a law clerk for a judge is not a part time position. There is no way that Roberts could have practiced law on the side while holding that position. If he did that, it would actually be a prosecutable offense. He would be embezzling time from the state. Full time state employees that are attorneys are prohibited from engaging in the private practice of law. It applies to judges, DAs, asst. DAs and even law clerks.

So that begs the question that earlier posters made.....is he qualified under that constitution to even run for chancellor? Forget about that fact that he has no experience practicing law but is he even qualified to run for the job?

Anonymous said...

That pig smells fishy.

Pure poetry......

Anonymous said...

2:08 here. Um, a bit of a strong reaction there, hombre.

If I read your earlier post correctly, you were trying to make a point using an analogy of how (seemingly) unaccomplished (private practice-wise) an appellate judge is allowed to be. My point was that appellate judges do work that is legal, but distinctly distanced from the turnbuckles as opposed trial judges and the requirements probably should be a tad different.

Chill out or put some salve on that nerve I musta hit.

Anonymous said...

Yall are failing to absorb what is occurring here. The point is what all is behind the scenes here. Gentlemen, focus.

Anonymous said...

Haydn Roberts resigned when he became a candidate. He was no longer in the staff attorney position when the family master post opened up due to McLaurin's appointment as chancellor. Get your facts right, people.

Anonymous said...

Fact: Hayden Roberts resigned the Friday before Memorial Day from the full time position of law clerk for the Chancery Court.
Fact: Hayden Roberts qualified to run for the new position Chancery Judge position in Rankin County on that same Friday.
Fact: The governor announced the Wednesday after Memorial day that McLaurin would be appointed to the open spot due to the death of Dan Fairly.
Fact: That same Wednesday the order's went to the Supreme Court for McLaurin to take the open seat along with the order for Haydn Roberts to be name the new Family Master.
Fact: McLaurin was sworn in Thursday as was Mr. Roberts

There are all the FACTS!

Anonymous said...

^^^^^ agree with 11:09. The fix was in.

I am going start calling this the "Black Robe Scandal." They should have a slogan too like "Grow a law clerk into a judge overnight just add crookedness.......uh I mean water."

Anonymous said...

Whoever posted at 11:09 must think the people posting on here actually cared about FACTS....

Anonymous said...

And Then....

Kingfish said...

knock it off.

Anonymous said...

Anybody see Roberts WAPT bit where he clarifies for us bumpkins that his position of Family Master is "just a fancy term for part-time Judge"? How's that for an unfair advantage in the election?
It's hard to find him authoritative when he looks like a child in his father's suit. Somebody tell him what a tailor does...its just a fancy term for a person that makes your clothes fit your gangly, pubescent body properly.

Anonymous said...

I can not find anywhere on the MS Judicial website that Haydn Roberts was a staff attorney, his title was law clerk II. In all the job descriptions on that website, staff attorney has different requirements and salary than a law clerk. There is no way he could have been a staff attorney right out of law school. Why hasn't anyone called him on this?

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