• 70°

Supervisors approve payment system for attorneys

NATCHEZ — The issue of pay for public defenders in Adams County got even muddier on Monday.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors agreed to pay seven public defense attorneys $3,000 per month in place of hourly wages or creating a public defenders’ office.

However, one Sixth District Circuit Court Judge, Debra Blackwell, said she will not allow current public defenders Aisha Sanders or Roberta Blackmon to serve in her courtroom.

Blackwell said she would only pick “the most qualified” attorneys from the county’s list of seven public defenders, which includes Kevin Colbert, Zachary Jex, Jeffery Harness, Timothy Blalock, Lisa Chandler, Roberta Blackmon and Aisha Sanders.

Aisha Sanders is Judge Lillie Sanders’ daughter and Roberta Blackmon is Lillie Sanders’ sister. Sanders cannot appoint either of those two because of the family conflict of interest.

Blackwell also said she would not let Judge Lillie Sanders force who she should pick to serve in her courtroom.

“I thought that I made it very clear that I was going to appoint the three people I thought were the most qualified,” Blackwell said. “… I am not appointing Ms. Blackmon or Ms. Sanders to work in my courtroom. I do not approve of them. I have tried for two years to work with them. … One of them spends more time in my court on motions to withdraw than she does on resolutions to her cases.”

Aisha Sanders and Blackmon, who were not present at Monday’s meeting, both declined to comment for this news story.

Lillie Sanders argued it would be wrong to have only white attorneys serve as public defenders in a majority Black community. Lillie Sanders said she would appeal to a higher judge in the Supreme Court of Mississippi to help solve the issue.

Officials said the previously proposed public defenders office — which was estimated to cost over $300,000 per year plus benefits — would have caused the county to go over their budget of approximately $270,000 per year for public defenders.

While the plan for the attorneys’ pay was in limbo, judges Blackwell and Sanders co-signed a court order in January asking the board to pay attorneys an hourly rate of $100 plus $350 per case. The order was rescinded after the Board of Supervisors filed an appeal saying that too would blow up the budget.

“We cannot keep beating this dead horse. People need to get paid,” board president Angela Hutchins said during Monday’s meeting.

After the meeting, Hutchins said she agreed with Lillie Sanders that there needed to be equal representation for Black defendants.

“We’ve got a district that is probably 65% or 70% Black,” Hutchins said. “I agree that there needs to be more representation for defendants of color.  … I hope we come to a resolution soon. It’s not about us but the clients that need the representation.”

News

Damaged utility pole causes 200 customers to lose power

News

Judge denies second request to revoke murder suspect’s house arrest order

News

City Hall painted purple with lights in support of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

News

Natchez Early College Academy names STAR Student, STAR Teacher

News

Teen arrested in ongoing investigation of double homicide

News

Revamped Crime Stoppers program helps area law enforcement solve crime

News

President Felecia M. Nave launches Inaugural President Lecture Series at Natchez campus

News

Natchez hotel catches on fire

Business

Natchez officials host closed meeting concerning potential land donation to the city

News

‘Slave Dwelling Project’ stirs up conversations about history

COVID-19

Adams County officials to lift mask mandate on May 1

BREAKING NEWS

Hank Williams Jr. to play Natchez 4th of July Celebration

News

Law officials arrest 3 in connection with automobile burglaries

News

Master Gardners host spring plant sale at Co-Lin

News

Security officer enjoys building relationships with students

Business

Jobs everywhere but few workers to fill them

Business

Natchez artist opens mobile-making studio amid pandemic

News

Concordia Parish jury finds Clayton man guilty in killing of his wife, 12-year-old boy

News

International investors from India visit Natchez on economic development trip

News

Donations of items needed for 3rd Gayrage Sale

News

City approves final lease for historic train depot on Broadway Street

News

Lt. Gov. Hosemann addresses American Rescue funds in Natchez, Adams County

Business

Hosemann won’t close door to Medicaid expansion in Mississippi

News

Natchez Euro Fest moved to Sunday due to weather