Baker sworn in as youth court’s newest referee

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 11, 2005

Lesa Baker donned the judicial robe Thursday as she was sworn inas the 15th Chancery Court District’s new youth court referee.

“I’m excited about it,” Baker said of her new duties as she wascongratulated by chancery court and other county officials Thursdaymorning.

Judge Ed Patten said a youth court referee has to have theability to be tough when situations warrant and also exhibitcompassion in difficult family situations or when children areabused or neglected.

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“The person has to have a heart for children, if you will, nomatter what they’ve done,” Patten said.

Patten said Baker has the same qualities as Mike Taylor, whoserved as youth court referee for Lincoln and Copiah counties untilhis recent appointment as 14th District circuit court judge. Taylorcomplimented Patten’s selection of Baker as his successor.

“It’s a wonderful choice, and I know she’ll do an outstandingjob,” Taylor said.

Others who will be working with Baker were equallycomplimentary.

“I know she’ll do a super job as youth court referee,” saidLincoln County School Attendance Officer Bobby Bell. “I know sheloves kids and wants to help kids. She’ll fit in perfectly.”

With Baker, Bell looked for local school attendance efforts tocontinue.

“Lincoln County, as a whole, is under control,” Bell said.”That’s due to the cooperation we have with one another here.”

Alluding to her previous five years as a public defender and hermore recent private practice work as guardian ad litem in childcases, Baker indicated her past had helped prepare her for her newrole. Baker, 39, originally received an accounting degree from theUniversity of Southern Mississippi and later returned to theMississippi College School of Law, obtaining her law degree in1997.

Baker said she looks forward to working with Bell and IntakeOfficer Deborah Littleton to encourage children to attend schooland avoid truancy. She was also eager to hear from businesses andother organizations willing to allow youth to perform communityservice hours at their locations.

“We’re going to look at a lot of things,” Baker said about herplans while referee.

Baker cited the importance of students being in school.

“First of all, if they’re not in school, they’re missing out ontheir education,” Baker said, “and second of all, if they’re not inschool, they’re likely out getting in trouble.”