Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Lauderdale Probate Judge?

Since 1996, Dewey Mitchell has served as Lauderdale County's Probate Judge. According to local records, "Originally the duties of the Probate Judge were administrative duties and responsibilities relating to the control of roads, ferries, bridges, and the management of public buildings. The Probate Judge was also responsible for custody of land records and protected chattels by registration of brands." Obviously these duties have changed over the passing decades.

Mr. Mitchell was elected by a small majority, defeating the incumbent Bill Hanbery, a former Florence attorney. Due to a schism in courthouse personnel, Mitchell did not assume the office of Probate Judge under the best of circumstances and has done an admirable job in learning the ins and outs of the office, an office that also entails leadership of the County Commission.

Yet, Mr. Mitchell is lacking in one important area--he is not a juris doctor. Yes, in the great state of Alabama, one does not have to be an attorney in order to be elected probate judge. The legislature has attempted to remedy this situation at various times, but such bills have always been relegated to the back burner.

Sources close to Mitchell have indicated he is eager to leave his office at the end of this term. We wish Mr. Mitchell well. We also wish the current voting population of Lauderdale County will choose wisely when they mark their ballots. Glad-handing is never a proper substitute for education, but all too often Alabama voters have not recognized the need for such. Perhaps this time they will...

What's up with this: Sources say the current County Attorney may be the fair-haired candidate for Probate Judge, just not for any critical pending lawsuits?