The new senior chancellor of the 7th Chancery District removed all four special masters, the single public defender and many appointees associated with youth court in an order issued this past week.

Catherine Farris-Carter, who works from the Bolivar County Courthouse in Cleveland, became senior chancellor with the retirement in December of  Jon M. Barnwell, who had served as chancellor since 1989.

As senior chancellor, Farris-Carter vacated all court-appointed positions, covering the six-county district including child support family master, the three lunacy/alcohol and drug special masters and the lone lunacy/alcohol and drug public defender.

In the order dated Jan. 22, Farris-Carter also removed the youth court referee, youth court public defender, youth court prosecutor, youth court guardian ad litem, youth court administrator and people serving in all other administrative positions in three of the six counties — Tallahatchie, Quitman and Tunica. In the other three counties — Leflore, Bolivar and Coahoma — youth courts fall under jurisdiction of county courts.

The removals take effect Jan. 31.

Attorney Charles Swayze III had been child support family master since 2010, according to the Chancery Court Clerk’s office. Floyd Melton III had served since 2009, Whitman Mounger since 1992 and W.S. Stuckey Jr. since 1992, all as lunacy/alcohol and drug special masters. Kelvin Pulley had been the lunacy/alcohol and drug public defender since 2017. All are Greenwood lawyers.

Farris-Carter was not available Friday to comment on what impact her order would have on cases pending before the special masters or in youth court.

Chancery courts deal with lawsuits involving equity,  adoptions, custody disputes, divorces, guardianships, sanity hearings and wills. Youth courts deal with matters involving abuse and neglect of juveniles, and offenses committed by juveniles.

The special masters are appointed to hear chancery court cases when the number of cases becomes too much for the three chancellors. They have the power to hear cases, issue subpoenas, question witnesses and perform other functions of a judge but must pass on their recommendations to a chancellor for the final order.

Farris-Carter’s order erroneously included attorney K. Elizabeth Davis, listing her as lunacy/alcohol and drug public defender, according to the chancery court clerk’s office. Davis does no work in the chancery court and is instead a public defender for Leflore County and the City of Greenwood.

Besides Farris-Carter, the chancellors in the 7th District are W.M. Sanders and Willie J. Perkins Sr.

Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or gmaliska@gwcommonwealth.com.

The original version of this article incorrectly reported that the youth court appointees had been vacated in all six of the district's counties.

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