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Judge Price calls his replacement into court for absence

The county’s new prosecuting attorney must appear in court to explain her absence from court hearings, Judge Johnny Price said Tuesday.

The prosecutor, Marcie T. Southerland, said there must have been a misunderstanding.

Southerland, 49, did not appear for a 9 a.m. Tuesday Youth Court session, said an order from Price, 56, the new judge of Warren County Court and Youth Court. Price ordered her to appear before him at 10 a.m. Friday “to show cause, if any she can, why the Court should not charge her with criminal contempt of Court.”

Southerland, who said she was in New Mexico Tuesday and today on previously scheduled business in the private practice she also maintains, said she met with Youth Court staff Friday. During that meeting, she said they arranged for the five cases Price said were set for Tuesday morning to be handled either by court staff in her absence or by her on Thursday, after she was to return to Vicksburg.

“Obviously the bottom line here is that there has been a huge misunderstanding,” she said, adding that possibly due to absences among court staff Friday and Monday, arrangements were not communicated to Price. She said Price was not available when she tried to meet with him Friday.

“No procedure was followed that was not followed in the past when Judge Price was the county prosecutor,” Southerland said. She added that she intended to meet with Price, if he would agree to do so, Thursday morning to discuss the matter.

In his order, Price charges that Southerland knew that the court hearings were scheduled and others involved including the court reporter, attorneys for youth, the bailiff and other Youth Court staff were ready to proceed.

The five cases to be heard Tuesday morning were set on that day for Southerland’s convenience, Price’s order said. Southerland declined to comment on that part of the order.

The Youth Court cases set for Tuesday involved allegations of no school attendance, simple assault, home burglary, vehicle theft and a parole violation by a child previously in training school, Price’s order said.

Price was “of the opinion that the actions of the Warren County Prosecuting Attorney appear to constitute criminal contempt,” his order said.

Price declined to comment on his order, saying it speaks for itself.

The county court and Youth Court systems have a new county prosecutor for the first time in 13 years.

Price, who served as county prosecutor for 13 years, was elected to the bench in November and took office Jan. 1. He replaced Gerald Hosemann, who had served as county judge for 16 years.

At the same time, Southerland, a justice court judge from 1982 until 1999 and in private practice since, took office as the county prosecutor. She was appointed by the Warren County Board of Supervisors to serve the remaining year of Price’s elected term. The four-year post is up for election in November. The part-time position pays $37,343 annually.