Shreveport City Court Clerk Vacancy – an Update

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By JOHN E. SETTLE JR.
John Settle 

A Sept. 30, 2011, column, “Wanted: A New Shreveport City Court Clerk,” pointed out the unfortunate poor health of Shreveport City Court Clerk Virginia Hester and her excessive absenteeism from her office beginning in 2008.

Ms. Hester’s health continued to decline after that date with more days out of the office until her death on Feb. 7 of this year. The position of the chief clerk has been open since that date.

Efforts are now being made by the Shreveport city judges to replace Ms. Hester, who after 40-plus years of service in the clerk’s office is a virtual icon. The four judges — Bill Kelly, Lee Irvin, Pamela Lattier and Sheva Sims — will select Hester’s successor.

The clerk’s office has over 50 employees and an annual budget of $2.6 million since 2008. The clerk’s salary is set by the judges; Ms. Hester was paid in excess of $115,000 during her last year of service.

It’s no secret among the regular “customers” of this court — the attorney crowd and the persons who file evictions and collections — that the efficiency and responsiveness of the clerk’s office has declined in the last several years. The frequent absences of Ms. Hester obviously had a substantial negative impact on the office.

In response to a public records request, senior judge Bill Kelly advised that the city judges requested local attorney Zelda Tucker to form a committee to aid in the selection of the city court clerk. Kelly advised that Tucker was selected because of her previous experience in the selection of the federal magistrate and her involvement in the Shreveport Bar Association; Ms. Tucker is a past president.

The committee consisted of Ms. Tucker (chairperson), Ben Politz, Bill Byram, Reg Abrams, Vicki Warner, Price Barker and Al Childs.

The judges selected the potential committee members and the size; Ms. Tucker called a list until she filled the committee. All the members are attorneys except for Al Childs; the selection of a developer/layperson seems to be an anomaly and, in fact, is questionable.

Kelly said the selection process, which is totally within the discretion of the judges, was designed to minimize political pressure and to select a highly qualified clerk with ability to manage a very large and busy office.

The vacancy was advertised through the Louisiana Judicial Administrator’s Web site and in the January issue of the Shreveport Bar Association newsletter (mailed out on Jan. 15).

The job description states that the clerk has overall responsibility for planning, organizing, controlling and directing local administrative and operational activities of the court.

The applicants must be either an attorney (accredited law school degree), a college graduate from an accredited four-year college with a degree in management, public/ business administrator or an individual with 10 years of “progressively responsible” experience in a clerk of court’s office.

The application process will close on April 15, and the committee has received 22 applicants to date. The interview process will start soon, and the judges hope to have a new clerk in office no later than the first of June. For all who “use” the Shreveport City Court, the sooner, the better.

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