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

California judge to deliver third shipment for storm-ravaged Gulf Coast

May 24, 2006

A California judge who has spearheaded efforts to provide equipment and furnishings for courts and other public agencies on the Mississippi Gulf Coast will return Thursday, May 25, with a truckload of donated office furniture and computers.

Retired San Diego County Superior Court Judge William C. Pate is expected to arrive in Gulfport about 8 a.m. Thursday with an 18-wheeler. He and a driver will deliver the load to the Harrison County Road Department Work Center at 10076 Lorraine Road in Gulfport.

It will be the third trip that Judge Pate has made to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to deliver goods donated to assist courts and other public agencies in their recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Judge Pate, who retired March 1 from the San Diego County Superior Court, said, “I see a need. I just wanted to help.”

“I think you are facing monumental tasks. I just admire the spirit of the people who are working in very difficult conditions and who have not gotten the nation’s attention,” Judge Pate said.

Judge Pate read about Mississippi courts’ needs on the web site of the National Center for State Courts last October. He came to Mississippi to see the damage for the first time on Nov. 3, 2005. He and San Diego Superior Court Property Manager Chuck Freeman drove a rented moving van loaded with office furniture and equipment to Bay St. Louis for the benefit of courts in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties. On the second trip in December, he arranged for an 18-wheeler to deliver a larger load to Bay St. Louis, with donated goods going to courts and other public agencies.

He was amazed at what he saw. “It’s the endlessness of it. I’ve now covered the entire Gulf region of Mississippi on the two times I’ve been there. It just never stops. The scene never changes as you drive along the coast from Louisiana to Alabama. It’s the vastness of it. It conveys the enormity of the task of cleaning it up and rebuilding it. The level of devastation is huge,” Judge Pate said.

When he saw the needs of other county government agencies, Judge Pate coordinated efforts to match request lists from those agencies with California surplus property sitting in a San Diego warehouse. Second Circuit District Court Administrator Becky Payne and Harrison County Administrator Pamela Ulrich gathered 30 pages of lists of needed property and supplies from Harrison County government agencies ranging from the Board of Supervisors to the Sand Beach Department, as well as from the courts.

Local officials will match the donated items to agency requests after the shipment arrives. Not all of the requests could be filled from the California surplus property stores. Other equipment and supply needs remain.

Payne said of Pate, “This man has been the courts’ angel. There are no words to express the many thanks we should give him. He’s helped more than just the courts. His initial concept was courts helping courts, but he’s taken it to another level.”

Chancery Judge Margaret Alfonso said, “We are grateful to Judge Pate and his colleagues for their continuing generosity. The progress we have made to date is due in large part to those who have volunteered their time, talents and money. It has meant so much to those who have lost so much.”

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. said, “I am just overwhelmed and amazed at the spirit of Judge Pate and the energy he has exhibited and the self-sacrifice and concern he has demonstrated for the Gulf Coast residents.”

Chief Justice Smith said, “It is humbling that these other court systems and public and private agencies would go out of their way to help not only the courts, but to help other agencies and citizens in need. We are grateful.”

The County of San Diego is the largest donor of goods arriving Thursday. It’s Board of Supervisors authorized donation of surplus property awaiting auction, Judge Pate said.

Judge Pate has spent recent days picking out bookcases, chairs, wooden desks, filing cabinets and other materials. The truck which left San Diego on Monday, May 22, is hauling 20 desks, 10 bookcases, 30 or more stacking chairs and an assortment of other furnishings.

“They give us their warehouse and we go through and pick and choose what we want. It’s all been declared surplus,” Judge Pate said.

Other California agencies pitched in. The San Diego Superior Court donated judges’ chairs. The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office donated 59 computer PCs. The California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, sent a box of keyboards and approximately 16 monitors. More keyboards and monitors will be needed.

There are even four silk upholstered chairs said to have been custom made for, but rejected by, California based weight loss and fitness guru Jenny Craig. The chairs ended up in a court surplus property warehouse. Pate figures they are too posh for court furniture, but would fetch some interest if auctioned. They are on the truck.

The San Diego County Bar contributed $2,600, and individual members of the San Diego office of Best, Best and Kreiger, the law firm to which Judge Pate’s son belongs, gave $2,000. The money covers the cost of transportation via 18-wheeler. James Pierce of J.P. Trucking of El Cajon, Calif., is hauling the load at a reduce shipping rate.

Judge Pate said, “The people were very, very responsive. They’ve really been excited about it in California. It’s been rewarding.”