Judge slot a ‘people’ job

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 6, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Judge Johnny Jones will be the first to tell you he is a busy man.

And it is likely the person who succeeds him will just be as busy.

After serving as the Dallas County Probate Judge for more than 20 years, he will also admit there is more to the job than meets the eye.

“During my tenure, I’ve tried to be in the people business,” Jones said. “There are so many people that walk in here, and they really just need help. It takes up a lot of your time. This job never really leaves you. I’ll get calls at 2 or 3 in the morning.”

Among the many things the probate office covers are estate and intestate proceedings, deeds and documentation, mortgages and land condemnations. The judge of probate also handles adoptions, name changes, commitments conservatorships and guardianships.

Jones said he spends also lot of time dealing with mental patients. He gives credit to his staff in the recording office for handling a lot of the legal work.

He supervises a staff of between 12 to 15 people, including everyone in his office and the staff that aids the county commission.

The primary focus of the job is the role of chairman of the commission. Because the commission chairman runs the county government, that is both the most important and most time-consuming aspect of the job.

But it is by no means a dictatorship.

“The chairman has only as much power as the county commission allows (him) to have,” Jones said.

The chairman’s imbursement is $2,500 annually, along with a salary of $74,050 for regular duties of the probate judge.

There are no particular qualifications for the job, but more than just a peek into a legal textbook isn’t the worst thing.

“You don’t have to be a lawyer, but it sure does help,” Jones said. “I went to school at night and got my law degree, and it has helped me.”

Since so much of the job is being around people, Jones said the most important prerequisite for the new probate judge will stem directly from that.

“You have to have a deep feeling for people.”