Update on City Court Clerk/Judicial Administrator Jobs

by John Settle
Shreveport Attorney John Settle
John Settle

Accurate reports on closed door decision-making by elected officials –including judges –are generally difficult to obtain, and often the “real story” never comes to the light of day. This has been, in large part, the case with the selection by Shreveport City Judges of a new Clerk of Court, as well as the creation of a new “Judicial Administrator” position.

More information has now leaked out, and a previous article (“Game Playing on Clerk/Administrator Selection?”) can now be updated, clarified, and in some issues corrected. Hopefully, this column will shed more light on the new high dollar hires by the four elected judges –Bill Kelly, Lee Irvin (with apologies for prior misspelling), Pam Lattier, and Sheva Sims.

The selection committee appointed by Chief Judge Bill Kelly to interview candidates for the advertised position of Shreveport City Clerk made one unanimous recommendation, that being Shreveport attorney Walter “Doug” White (who is 60, not 63). The judges wanted three names from the committee, not one; as a result, Chief City Prosecutor Terrell Myles and former federal court clerk Robert Shemwell (Sr.) were placed in the finalist list, although neither one was recommended.

Reportedly, Judge Lattier was adamantly opposed to White and Myles; she pushed to have acting clerk Marilyn Smith (a non attorney) named as the clerk. Smith, who has been in the Clerk’s Office for approximately 10 (not 30) years, was one of the 24 applicants for the position.

Shemwell had been Kelly’s favorite from the get go; the opposition to White and Myles provided an opportunity for compromise with Lattier (and Sims), to elevate Smith to a managerial position that had not been advertised. Shemwell will, effective Thursday August 2nd, become the Clerk and Smith will soon take over a newly created position of “Judicial Administrator.” Shemwell will be paid $100,000 and Smith will get a salary bump from $80,000 to $90,000.

According to Kelly, the job description and duties for Smith are “being worked out” and the duties will include “judicial functions, administration, case management, statistics and courtroom assignments.” Long time Clerk Virginia Hester had held both positions as Judicial Administrator and Clerk of Court; arguably some (if not all) of the duties of judicial administrator were encompassed in the job description advertised for the Clerk of Court position.

According to Kelly, judges are not required to advertise the Judicial Administrator position because “it will be filled from within the court by court staff.” Seemingly, this position should have been open for applications by the public like that of the Clerk, which could have been “filled within.”

Shemwell has reportedly agreed to a two year term, albeit Kelly advises that his employment, along with all other court personnel is at will; Shreveport City Court jobs are unclassified. Whether or not the brokered deal is to set Smith up as Shemwell’s successor is an unknown.

How this management shuffle and the backroom dealing by the judges works out is a story yet to be told. What is known is that the process followed:

  • Setting up a committee
  • Totally ignoring the committee’s recommendations
  • Simultaneously creating a new job on the run

This process does not speak well of these elected officials. With the exception of Kelly, who is termed out due to age, these judges will be up for re-election in 2014.