Supreme Court finalizes time standards

November 20, 2001

The Mississippi Supreme Court in an order made public on Tuesday adopted advisory time standards for trial courts.

The time standards for circuit, chancery and county courts are set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2002.

Time standards set goals for concluding criminal felony cases within 270 days of arraignment, civil lawsuits within 18 months of filing, contested divorces within 1 year of filing of the complaint and uncontested divorces, within 180 days of filing. Other time standards are set out in the exhibit to the Court's order, which is available on the Supreme Court web site at courts.ms.gov. Go to the NEWS icon.

Chief Justice Edwin Pittman said, "I just believe if there is a lack of timeliness in the courtroom, we destroy the public's confidence in what we do. We don't want to make important decisions too late."

Pittman in an order signed Nov. 15 adopting the time standards said they will "promote the fair and efficient administration of justice."

The time standards are not mandatory, but are advisory only. The Supreme Court in a preamble to the time standards said, "These time standards represent aspirational goals against which to measure the actual movement of cases in the trial courts. They should not be treated as rules of court which limit the discretion of the trial courts to schedule individual cases and proceedings within individual cases. They do not supercede time periods applicable to specific cases under court rules or statute. Each case is unique and the judges of the courts must, within the bounds of the rules of court and statutes, exercise sound judgment in such a manner as to provide the parties with a fair opportunity to be heard and to allow the court to achieve a reasoned disposition. However, our justice system has grown to the point that only by observing and comparing the flow of matters in all the trial courts can we determine the special needs of each court and allocate resources to the best end."

Exempt from time standards are estate and will probate proceedings, guardianships, conservatorships, commitment proceedings, petitions for name change, petitions for registration of foreign judgments and uncontested adoptions.

The time standards adopted unanimously by the nine Supreme Court justices differ from the original model proposed by the Court on June 14. The Supreme Court made modifications in response to comments and suggestions from trial judges, lawyers, bar associations and individuals.

The Conference of Chancery Judges, the Conference of Circuit Court Judges and the Conference of County Court Judges endorsed the modified time standards in October.

For more information, contact court public information officer Beverly Pettigrew Kraft at 601-354-7452 or at bkraft@courts.ms.gov.

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