In the wake of third-term incumbent Jody L. Wise’s resignation announcement in March, the Baldwin County Judicial Commission will interview seven candidates for circuit court clerk. On Monday, Presiding Judge Clark Stankoski released the list of candidates, noting they will all be interviewed May 20. Judges Carmen Bosch, Jody Bishop, Joseph Norton and Scott Taylor also serve on the commission.
The judges aim to make an appointment by June 1, so Wise will have an opportunity to assist in the transition prior to her departure July 1. Whoever is appointed will face an election in 2024.
In alphabetical order, the applicants are:
• Kim Earl of Daphne, a court specialist supervisor and internal auditor who has worked at the Mobile County Clerk’s Office since 1987.
• Brenda Ganey of Bay Minette, an employee of the Baldwin County Circuit Clerk’s Office for 27 years, most recently as court administrator.
• Kerry Gaull of Spanish Fort, a project manager and supervisor at the Baldwin County District Attorney’s Office since 2017.
• Crystal McKenzie of Fairhope, an educator of 15 years and current teacher at Elberta and Summerdale elementary schools.
• Lori Phillips of Little River, who has more than 16 years’ experience in the legal field and is currently a court attendant for Presiding District Judge Michelle Thomason.
• Lauren Ollinger Powe of Daphne, who has worked for state prosecutors for the past 12 years and is currently the administrative assistant to the Mobile County chief investigator.
• Katy Sipper of Daphne, an assistant district attorney in Baldwin County since 2014, who previously practiced family law, criminal defense and personal injury law in Montgomery.
As Lagniappe previously reported, Wise tendered her resignation at a time when her own son, 24-year-old Bradley Wise Campbell, is fighting a first-degree rape charge in Baldwin County Circuit Court. Wise, Stankoski and other judges of the circuit recused themselves from the case, which is being prosecuted by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.
According to an indictment handed down last year, Campbell is accused of raping a victim who was “incapable of consent by reason of being incapacitated.” Attorney John Beck, who represents Campbell, told Lagniappe the allegations are false and the case is unrelated to Wise’s resignation.
Separately, a former employee of the clerk’s office is at the center of a wrongful death lawsuit against the county, regarding the improper release of a state inmate Gregory Dvorak, who should have been incarcerated when he killed a motorist, 49-year-old Sarah Echols, in a violent, head-on traffic collision in 2017. Similarly, every judge in the county also recused themselves from the Echols case and it has since been assigned to Judge Ben Bowden of Covington County. A trial has been set in the Echols case for September.
The circuit court clerk is the custodian of all court records in circuit and district courts but is also responsible for court notices and processes, scheduling and seating juries, and accounting for fines, forfeitures, court costs and fees, among other things. According to a report by the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, those receipts in Baldwin County totaled more than $61 million between 2017 and 2020.
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