Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

Chief Justice says docket management and e-filing are his top priority

July 18, 2005

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. told lawyers and judges Friday that a broad-based effort is underway to create a statewide computerized court records filing and information sharing system.

The Chief Justice outlined plans for developing a uniform statewide system of docket management and electronic filing in state courts during his State of the Judiciary speech July 15 at the 100th Mississippi Bar Convention in Destin, Fla.

“This is the court’s number one priority at this time,” said Chief Justice Smith.

Chief Justice Smith also updated lawyers on the Supreme Court’s emphasis of timeliness in rendering all decisions, study of a possible class-action rule, and an ongoing review of security for courthouses.

“I pledged to restore integrity to the judiciary,” Chief Justice Smith said. “I am confident that our focus on a renewal of structure, order, timeliness in decisions, predictability of adhering to precedent law, and pursuit of true justice has, in fact, restored a very much needed appearance of integrity to our judiciary.”

Outlining developments in the area of docket management and electronic filing, Chief Justice Smith said a needs analysis survey of 10 Mississippi counties, ranging from urban to small rural areas, is expected to be completed by Nov. 1. Legislation is expected to be sought in January to assist in implementing the statewide program.

The office of the State Auditor secured funding for the needs analysis with a $50,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security. Chief Justice Smith noted that the involvement of the Auditor’s Office is just one example of the multi-agency effort. Agencies outside the judiciary stand to benefit from information sharing.

The E-Filing/Court Docket Management Study Committee includes representatives of the Department of Information Technology Services, the office of the Attorney General and the Department of Archives and History as well as judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, chancery courts, circuit courts and county courts, chancery and circuit clerks, court staff, a district attorney, a law professor and attorneys in private practice.

Chief Justice Smith said, “I’ve involved everybody who has shown an interest in this. I’m looking for every means possible to make this succeed.”

He’s also working to share information with other courts. Chief Justice Smith and Presiding Justice William L. Waller Jr., chairman of the E-Filing/Court Docket Management Study Committee, met on July 5 with leaders and judicial officials of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to share information about utilization of computer technology in docket management and electronic filing.

Chief Justice Smith will be the keynote speaker at 8:45 a.m. July 20 at the third annual Justice Symposium of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. He will speak about docket management and electronic filing.

During the Bar Convention, Chief Justice Smith recognized the efforts of judges and a court staff member who made significant contributions to the planning of a docket management and e-filing system. Recipients of the 2005 Chief Justice Awards are Presiding Justice Waller, Second District Chancery Judge H. David Clark II, and Supreme Court Central Legal Staff Director Jack Pool. The annual awards recognize contributions of people whose work improved the judicial system. Chief Justice Smith, who announced the award winners Saturday, July 16, at the Bar Convention, praised all three men for their leadership and tireless work on the project.

Chief Justice Smith said he picked Presiding Justice Waller to head the E-Filing/Court Docket Management Study Committee because “I know he will get it done.”

Judge Clark already has a successful computerized case management system in place in his district, which includes Scott, Newton and Jasper counties. He served as chair of the subcommittee which drafted goals and standards for case management and e-filing.

Pool worked closely with the committee. Chief Justice Smith praised Pool’s dedication. “He is just a tremendous and valued individual who is able to do all of these tasks in addition to keeping up with the management of Central Legal.”