Drungole-Ellis getting a head start on transition

Staff Writer

Whoever wins the runoffs for two open Chancery Court judgeships in District 14 covering Clay, Oktibbeha, Lowndes. Noxubee, Chickasaw and Webster counties, some of the legwork for their transition already will be done.

That’s thanks to Judge-elect Paula Drungole-Ellis, who won the Post 3 seat in the Nov. 6 general election.

Since being declared the winner election night, Drungole-Ellis, who was the youth court referee in Oktibbeha County, has been working on the transition, talking with the three retiring judges, and visiting chancery court clerks and court administrators.

It helps that she’s getting a little head start because she will be the senior judge in the circuit by virtue of her 32 years of legal experience. Whoever is elected in next week’s runoffs won’t have as much experience.

“It just happened to work out that way, but being the senior judge and already being elected has given me time to start thinking about the transition and meeting with people,” Drungole-Ellis said Monday afternoon just before walking into a meeting with the court administrator for the sprawling six-county district.

“Since the election, I’ve been going around meeting clerks and their staffs or re-acquainting myself with them. I’ve had several conversations with Judge Colom, just looking at some of the things we all need to know and need to do,” she continued.

Drungole-Ellis fills the seat being vacated by retiring Judge Dorothy Colom, whose post covered Noxubee and parts of Lowndes, Clay and Oktibbeha counties.

Colom also happened to be the senior judge.

The early start will benefit all three newcomers, once the other two seats are decided, because this year marks the first time ever in the state all three sitting judges in a district have retired at the same time.
“The more information we can get, the better,” said Drungole-Ellis.

Her experience as a youth court referee gives her a little insight from a court perspective. The winners in the other two races will bring more courtroom practice to the bench. It’s a good mix.

“We all have different perspectives and experiences, different ways we’ve seen things so bringing all that together will help everyone since we all are new. And being able to get a head start I think will help them because whoever is elected in the other two seats already will have one source of information,” Drungole-Ellis said.

“We can sit down and see what we have and what we need to get,” she continued.

All three will go through judicial training Dec. 3-7. Then they will start the transition process in earnest, closing out their own existing cases, working on staff and putting together schedules.

The three retiring judges — Jim Davidson, Ken Burns and Dorothy Colom — also have to finish up opinions and wind down their cases.

“We’ve all got a lot of logistics to work on in a short period of time, especially when you throw in the holidays,” noted Clay County Chancery Court Clerk Amy Berry.

The new judges officially take office and will be sworn in Jan. 1.