The retiring clerk of the Baton Rouge City Court, who also serves as the judicial administrator, sent a letter to the Baton Rouge Metro X00161_9Council last week urging them not to vote in favor of turning his position into an elected seat.
Lon Norris, who has more than 30 years experience in city-parish government, is officially retiring later this month, but his last day at the office was on Friday. He’s using vacation for the remainder of his days.
Led by Baton Route Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle, the Metro Council has been moving toward a proposal that will change the Plan of Government and could make Norris’s administrative position one that would be voted for by the city residents, rather than appointed by the five city court judges. Norris’s replacement Lynn Maloy has already been appointed. But if the position became an elected seat she could lose her job.
Marcelle has argued that the clerk of courts for district courts are elected positions, like 19th Judicial District Clerk Doug Welborn.
The Metro Council will vote later this month to make the change, which would be subject to voter approval first.
Among the many points Norris made in his five-page letter, he states that only two city courts out of 49 in the state provide for elections of the Clerk of Court, so it’s out of the norm.
He also raises concerns that an elected Clerk of Court could have limited or no experience in court management or judicial operations.
“Finally and most importantly, what is the motivation or justification for this proposal?” Norris writes. “Is there a demand or outcry from the public to have an elected clerk of court and/or judicial administrator? Has there been a failure in the present operations of the Clerk of Court/Judicial Administrator Office that has prompted this proposal? ”
He said the current structure provides the “structure and opportunity to select the most qualified candidate in a profession that is requiring more competencies and skills in order to succeed in a rapidly changing and demanding legal field.”