Bar association rescinds vote against Arledge

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 16, 2002

[10/16/02]At a called meeting Tuesday night, members of the Warren County Bar Association unanimously rescinded a Sept. 30 vote expressing the view that judicial candidate Robert Arledge was not qualified.

“The bar found that Arledge, in addition to the other four candidates, possesses the necessary qualifications to be County Court judge,” said David Sessums, president of the local attorney group. “The bar neither endorses nor opposes any particular candidate.”

Five attorneys, including the four-term incumbent Gerald Hosemann and Arledge, are seeking the post on Nov. 5 ballots.

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In its earlier vote, Vicksburg attorneys indicated that since Arledge was not a member of the association and had not practiced in Vicksburg, he shouldn’t be considered for the position, which includes serving as Youth Court and eminent domain judge, among other duties.

Arledge, the spending leader for the $96,000 per year job, responded that since his private practice has been national and regional, he’s better prepared for the judgeship and less susceptible to influence.

He said he joined the local association this week and attended Tuesday’s meeting.

Earlier in the day, all five candidates restated the main messages of their campaigns to date in brief speeches.

Arledge, 45; Hosemann, 50; Johnny Price, 56; Bill Bost, 57; and Clarence A. Whitaker, 59, each spoke for about seven minutes at a noon meeting of the Corps of Engineers Chapter Chamber of Commerce.

Bost, who has worked in Vicksburg for 32 years, stressed his civic involvement, general legal experience and integrity.

“Instead of glorified and flowery promises of what you might achieve if you’re elected judge,” he said to the 50 people who attended, “you need to look at the records of the different candidates. Some of these candidates have good records, some have no records.”

Bost also criticized the use of public endorsements by lawyers who are likely to appear before a judge, if their candidate is elected.

Price, county prosecutor who has been accepting public endorsements, said he would let the reputations of the two attorneys in his ads “stand on their own merits.”

Price emphasized his experience in the court as prosecutor and his experience as prosecutor and city judge pro tem for the City of Vicksburg. He said he had lived “eyeball-to-eyeball” with many “horror stories” among the approximately 10,000 Youth Court cases he has handled for the county.

“I’m not talking about kids out here knocking down mailboxes,” he said. “I’m talking about some of the most horrible circumstances, horrible environments that children can be raised in. For 13 years I have been in those trenches solving those problems for these children.”

Whitaker, with 24 years of local experience, said he had represented many children in Youth Court over that time, both as an attorney in delinquency cases and as a guardian in abuse, neglect or other cases.

“Not all, but almost all, of the defendants that I have represented (as adults) have been in the Youth Court system,” he said.

He also cited the court’s rehabilitative successes, saying he would expect his orders to result in as many of them as possible.

Arledge repeated that financing his own campaign would enable him to be a fair and impartial judge. A Jackson-based attorney concentrating on what he has called “complex mass-tort litigation” from about 1995 to earlier this year, he grew up in Vicksburg and said he has been “extremely blessed” by much help from local people.

“I’m running because I feel that, with those blessings, that with the assistance those people gave me during the course of my life comes a responsibility to give back to this community, comes the responsibility to extend that same helping hand to another young person.”

Hosemann, facing his first opposition since he was first elected judge in 1986, highlighted his accomplishments.

“I challenge each of you,” he told the audience, “to ask anyone if you’ve ever heard a negative thing about his (Hosemann’s) professionalism.”

Hosemann was removed from his judgeship by the state Supreme Court for a period earlier this year after a felony assault indictment was returned against him by a Hinds County grand jury. He was restored to the bench after the reported victim in the case, his former court reporter, said he did not cause her injuries. Hosemann pleaded no contest to disturbing the peace.