The county will take more time in searching for a new judicial commissioner.
During Monday night's regular monthly meeting the county commission voted to re-advertise an opening for two additional weeks hoping to get more applications. The county's judicial committee will then review any applications received and make a recommendation to the county commission.
The vacancy has been created due to the resignation of Taft Hendrixson because of health reasons.
The county recently advertised the opening and received one applicant but she is the spouse of a Smithville police officer and members of the judicial committee were concerned that this could be viewed as a conflict.
One of the judicial commissioners now serving, James Harvey Barnes, is the sheriff's uncle. Some question why this is not a conflict.
County Attorney Hilton Conger said Monday night that he has placed a call to an attorney for the state's judicial ethics committee to inquire as to whether the spouse of a police officer should serve as a judicial commissioner. Conger said he has not yet heard back from the attorney.
If the opinion is that the police officer's wife could serve, she may still be considered for the position along with any others who apply within the next two weeks.
"Judicial commissioners are under the auspices of the Court of the Judiciary the same as judges from the Supreme Court down through judicial commissioners. I put in a call for the attorney for the ethics commission to discuss this with him but I didn't get a call back this afternoon (Monday). I think the concern of the (county judicial) committee was that if this particular officer came in to request a warrant and his wife was on duty you might not have a neutral and detached magistrate which is the requirement," said County Attorney Conger.
As for one of the judicial commissioners being the Sheriff's uncle Conger said this may not actually be a conflict since he (sheriff) seldom signs a warrant. "I don't ever see the Sheriff signing any warrants. His deputies do but the Sheriff doesn't usually request a warrant. I don't know if his uncle being a judicial commissioner would have any bearing on that but I could certainly see a husband and wife situation. It might raise a conflict and we don't want to do anything that at least appears improper," said Conger.
The county has had three judicial commissioners including Taft Hendrixson, James Harvey Barnes, and Tammy Ashburn. They were appointed by the county commission to the positions for a one year term last September as recommended by the judicial committee.
The judicial committee is made up of the General Sessions/Juvenile Court Judge, Sheriff, Circuit Court Clerk, County Mayor, and a representative of the District Attorney General's Office.
Judicial commissioners are responsible for the issuance of criminal arrest warrants upon finding probable cause. They are subject to call at all hours of the day and night. Judicial commissioners serve at the pleasure of the county commission and their terms of office can be one year to four years.