By JB Clark
TUPELO – Lee County’s misdemeanor drug court may be forced to suspend operations due to an expired certification.
The Mississippi Administrative Office of Courts has mailed a letter, dated Oct. 15, to Lee County Justice Court Judge Rickey Thompson, asking him to suspend operations until a recertification request has been submitted.
Thompson heads the misdemeanor drug court.
Joey Craft, state drug court coordinator, said the certification expired in March and they are asking the court to resubmit their paperwork to the AOC.
The drug court’s certification was issued March 5, 2010 and was valid for three years.
The letter says, “The Lee County Justice Court must immediately suspend operation of its drug court program as it currently is in violation of Miss. Code Ann. § 9-23-11(1)(a), which requires that all drug courts be citified by the Administrative Office of Courts.”
The required recertification paperwork includes an information packet as well as a statement of goals and objectives for the program and a plan for achieving those goals and objectives.
“I don’t think we’ve rejected any recertification requests up to this point but it is still a case-by-case consideration,” Craft said. “It is the responsibility of the coordinator and judge to make sure their programs are certified.”
Lee County Administrator Sean Thompson said he has yet to speak with Judge Thompson about how to proceed.
Sean Thompson said he is unaware of the recertification process but he has received the letter and will be seeking advice from the AOC and possibly the attorney general on how to recertify the court.
Judge Thompson said he is confused as to why the notification of expiration is coming six months after the fact but plans to cooperate fully. He would not say if the court will continue to operate or if he has seen the letter but said he plans to answer all questions at a noon press conference today.
Judge Thompson recently lobbied the Lee County Board of Supervisors to help fund the court during the new fiscal year but to no avail. Sean Thompson said the court has enough money left over from state grants and participant fees to operate through May or June.
He also said they were in contact with the AOC during the budget talks and were never told of the March 5 certification expiration.