Arledge says he’s qualified to have judgeship

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 27, 2002

[03/27/02]As the self-imposed deadline nears for Gov. Ronnie Musgrove to name a new judge for Warren County, one attorney insisted he does have enough experience for the job.

In a letter, the Warren County Bar Association asked Musgrove not to select Robert C. Arledge, 44, to succeed Warren County Judge Gerald Hosemann, 50, who is retiring effective Sunday.

The local bar did not endorse any of the three identified hopefuls, but said Arledge has had limited practice in the county and should be taken out of the running for the post. Musgrove has said he will announce his choice before Hosemann leaves office.

“I think there is a certain group of attorneys here in Vicksburg that do not feel my practice is central enough here in Warren County,” Arledge said this morning.

Arledge, licensed in 1995, is a former attorney with the Schwartz & Associates law firm in Jackson. He said that although many of his cases have been in Hinds County, he is an experienced trial lawyer who should have an equal shot at the judgeship.

In addition to seeking the appointment, he and Warren County Prosecuting Attorney Johnny Price have announced as candidates for election to the judgeship in general election voting in November.

“I believe that I am the best-qualified candidate because I am both intellectual and financially independent,” Arledge said.

The local bar has met at least three times on Hosemann-related matters since the 16-year judge was arrested Dec. 28 in Hinds County and charged with aggravated assault. Kenneth B. Rector, the president, said members voted to keep discussions about the charge confidential. The letter to Musgrove followed a called meeting last week.

Juanita “Nita” Johnston, 48, who initially told Hinds authorities Hosemann inflicted the injuries with which she was discovered on his ranch property Dec. 6, has since professed her continuing love for him and said she is sure he did not hurt her. Hosemann has also issued written statements and made verbal statements that he did not harm Johnston, who formerly worked as his court reporter.

Hinds authorities still say they plan to present their evidence to a grand jury after it convenes April 15.

Arledge said today he would also refuse campaign contributions.

“I’m even going to finance my own campaign because I want people, when they appear before me, to know that it doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor or African-American or white.”

Arledge, Price, 55, and William Bost Jr., 57, another Vicksburg lawyer, have submitted their names to the Governor’s Office seeking appointment to the job.

State Rep. George Flaggs Jr., a youth counselor in Hosemann’s court, said he thinks Price has the best experience for the $94,000 job.

Price has been the county prosecutor for 12 years and has handled cases in both county and youth courts. He said he plans to run in the November election even if he is not appointed.

“With that experience, I just feel that I am the most qualified person,” Price said.

If Price is selected to replace Hosemann, it will be up to the Warren County Board of Supervisors to appoint a replacement to serve a county prosecutor. Board president Richard George said supervisors have not considered anyone to follow Price.

“We have enough trouble dealing with reality. We don’t have time for what-ifs,” George said.

Bost, a former member and chairman of the state Commission on Judicial Performance, has been a lawyer for 32 years in Warren County. He said he did not plan to run for the county judgeship in November, but that if he gets the appointment, he will.

“I put my name out because a good number of attorneys asked me to,” Bost said.

He said he was first approached about running for the seat after Hosemann was arrested in December.

“I know how a judge is supposed to act on the bench and off,” Bost said.

“At the end of the day, it’s the citizens who will select their judge,” Arledge said.

As of Tuesday, Arledge was the only candidate to file qualifying papers for the general election. The deadline is May 10. Since judicial elections are non-partisan, there will be no primaries and all candidates’ names will appear on Nov. 5 ballots.

When he announced his retirement on March 19, Hosemann said it was because the continued prosecution of his case by Hinds County authorities was interfering with his obligations to the job here.