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.