Hinds Public Defenders: Judge Weill Setting a Bad Precedent in Barring Attorney | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Hinds Public Defenders: Judge Weill Setting a Bad Precedent in Barring Attorney

Alison Kelly and the Hinds County Public Defender's office have answered a county judge who has barred office from his courtroom.

Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill has called Kelly, an assistant public defender, incompetent to represent her clients and accused her of being disrespectful and unprofessional in court. After county Public Defender Michele Harris refused to reassign Kelly, Weill started reassigning public-defender cases to private attorneys, they say.

In a response filed as part of a Mississippi Supreme Court case, Kelly and the HCPDO called Weill's charges "extreme."

"It is telling that none of (the charges) have been made against Ms. Kelly by any of the other three sitting judges in the Hinds County Circuit Court, all of whom Ms. Kelly has practiced before, or any of the prior judges on that court during her seven year career as a public defender, including Judge Weill’s predecessor, Swan Yerger," public defenders write in documents filed April 15.

Public defenders argue that no judgment has ever been reversed because of alleged ineffectiveness of Kelly's counsel, but that a number of judgments were reversed because of Weill's errors.

"That does not make him an incompetent' judge," the public defenders write. "But it does highlight the irony of him claiming that Ms. Kelly is “incompetent” and “unqualified” when he cannot point to a single example of a judgment even being called into question because of her actions."

Kelly also responded to the suggestion that a failure on her part resulted in the death of a prisoner at the Hinds County Detention Center. According to Weill, Kelly failed to her client, Elton McClaurin, transferred to Mississippi State Hosptial at Whitfield for an evaluation. In 2013, McClaurin was accused of killing his cellmate, Larry McLaurin (no relation).

"(Weill) provides no basis for this conclusion that it was her fault. He fails to entertain the possibility that the delay was caused by the lack of bed space at Whitfield," attorneys from the HCPDO write. McClaurin was subsequently admitted to Whitfield.

The public defender's office concluded by saying: "If Judge Weill is allowed to bar Ms. Kelly from his courtroom, and bar the HCPDO from his courtroom because the public defender will not reassign her, this would be a license for other judges to comb through the records of busy public defenders—and other lawyers—they do not like and to present a biased and distorted account of their actions in order to ban them from their courtrooms. That would set a dangerous precedent."

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