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

California Judge delivers equipment to hurricane damaged Gulf Coast courts

November 31, 2005

A California judge will arrive in Mississippi on Thursday, Nov. 3, to deliver equipment donated by the San Diego County Superior Court to hurricane damaged courts in Hancock and Jackson counties.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge William Pate and court Property Manager Chuck Freeman are expected to make a brief stop at the Mississippi Supreme Court in Jackson about 9 a.m. Thursday to visit with Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. and other court officials.

Judge Pate and Freeman will then travel to temporary court facilities in Bay St. Louis in Hancock County. They are expected to arrive around 1:30 p.m. Thursday at temporary court facilities on Longfellow Drive near the National Guard Armory.

Equipment for Hancock County Circuit, Chancery and Youth Courts will be delivered to tents and trailers which are being set up to house those court offices. Arrangements are also being made to have some of the donated furniture and equipment transported to Jackson County Chancery and Circuit Courts in Pascagoula.

Judge Pate and Freeman are driving cross-country in a large truck to deliver the donated equipment and furniture. They left San Diego on Tuesday on the trip of about 2,000 miles.

Judge Pate, a trial court judge in San Diego County, said he looked for a way to help courts and judges in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He saw the equipment needs of Mississippi’s coastal counties posted on the National Center for State Courts web site, California state judicial officials approved the donation of the equipment and furniture which had been taken out of service in that court system.

Chief Justice Smith had the equipment needs list posted on several web sites in an attempt to coordinate assistance for the damaged courts.

“We are grateful for the response we have gotten nationwide,” Chief Justice Smith said.

This is the first shipment to arrive. Chief Justice Smith has received other offers of help, and expects the court system to receive other equipment and financial assistance.

Judge Pate said, “We wanted to help a fellow court system that needed some help so that you can get back on your feet and get back to serving the public. We are really happy to try to help. We are glad you are going to be able to put it to good use rather than having it sit in a warehouse and collect dust.”

Senior Chancery Judge Margaret Alfonso of the 8th Chancery District said the court system is grateful for the help. “It’s wonderful. It’s such a generous gesture,” she said.

The Hancock County Courthouse in Bay St. Louis was severely damaged and is closed for renovations. There was no budget for furnishings and equipment, Judge Alfonso said.

Temporary court facilities are expected to be open by Dec. 1 in Hancock County. Trailers arrived last week at a site on Longfellow Drive in Bay St. Louis, and the Chancery and Circuit Courts may be in those facilities for 18 months to two years, Judge Alfonso said.

The Jackson County Courthouse in Pascagoula was damaged by Katrina and is closed for repairs. The first floor, which housed Chancery Courts, was flooded. Court offices moved to the Jackson County Civic Center in Pascagoula. Trailers have arrived, but have not been set up.

Sixteenth District Chancery Judge Jaye Bradley said, “Nobody has any furniture. It’s greatly needed. We have a plastic folding table and metal folding chairs. I’ve had court proceedings on a card table. We don’t have an office. I’m working out of my car on a cell phone most of the time.”