Warren County Court Judge Marcie Southerland appointed attorney Joseph Lane Campbell of Vicksburg as Youth Court Prosecutor Thursday. Southerland administered the oath to Campbell Friday.
Traditionally, the county prosecutor also serves as youth court prosecutor, but several counties around the state have a separate prosecutor for Youth Court. Warren County Prosecutor Ken Harper resigned his elected position in September, then informed the Warren County Board of Supervisors and the court shortly afterward that he wished to withdraw the resignation. The board has requested an Attorney General’s opinion regarding whether the position of county prosecutor had been vacated.
“Honorable Ken Harper, County Prosecutor, is hereby relieved of serving as Youth Court Prosecutor effective immediately,” Judge Southerland’s order appointing Campbell said.
“This undersigned County Court Judge who also serves as the Youth Court Judge finds that the Warren County Youth Court requires a Youth Court Prosecutor who is available, without interruption, to faithfully discharge the duties and responsibilities of the Youth Court Prosecutor,” the order continued. “This Court finds that in the interest of the administration of justice and in the best interest of children and their families who are served by the Youth Court, it is necessary to appoint a Youth Court Prosecutor to serve in lieu of the County Prosecutor.”
Southerland explained that immediate attention is required in cases involving allegations of abuse and neglect of children as well as matters involving delinquent acts by minors.
“Youth Court matters are critical,” she said in a statement. “The responsibilities of Youth Court are ongoing. Youth Court never stops. It’s a 24/7 job. There has to be a prosecutor available at all times to handle those cases. You can’t wait for a determination of whether Mr. Harper has vacated his position.”
Southerland added that action also was needed to prevent potential challenges to the validity of actions by the Youth Court Prosecutor with regard to whether the position had been vacated.
“For the efficiency of the Court, for the administration of justice and to serve the children and families in the Youth Court, I found it necessary to make this appointment,” she said.
Southerland entered an order setting Campbell’s salary at $4,100 per month with all benefits provided to county employees for the part-time position. Campbell can continue his private law practice. The appointment is not for a set term, but “until further order of this Court.”