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

Supreme Court appoints special judge for Hinds County Circuit Court

August 29, 2007

The Mississippi Supreme Court has appointed a second special judge to assist the Seventh Circuit Court of Hinds County with its criminal docket.

Retired Court of Appeals Judge Billy G. Bridges of Brandon was appointed by an order filed Aug. 29, 2007. Judge Bridges is expected to begin handling cases immediately.

The term of the appointment will last through Dec. 31, 2007. The court order, signed by Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr., says that the term of the appointment “may be extended if required by the condition of the docket of the District.”

Judge Bridges joins retired Judge L. Breland Hilburn as a special judge of the Hinds County Circuit Court. The assignment is the same as for Judge Hilburn, who was first appointed by the Supreme Court as a special judge for Hinds County Circuit Court on July 26, 2004. Judge Hilburn’s special judge assignment has been periodically extended by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court on Dec. 29, 2006, extended Judge Hilburn’s term through Dec. 31, 2007.

Senior Hinds County Circuit Judge W. Swan Yerger will assign criminal cases to Judge Bridges. Both special judges will use the same court administrator.

Chief Justice Smith said, “Judge Bridges’ appointment should double the effort in assisting Hinds County Circuit Court in eliminating the backlog of old cases that have inundated the system. This Court is committed to assisting our trial judges where the need is greatest. Hinds County citizens deserve extra assistance in dealing with this problem.”

Chief Justice Smith said that Judge Hilburn has handled a large volume of cases, but additional help is needed in handling the case backlog in Hinds County Circuit Court.

Judge Hilburn between January and June 5, 2007, handled matters in 385 criminal cases. He set 84 cases for trial, with 73 of those defendants entering guilty pleas. He handled 285 arraignments for other judges.

The appointment of Judge Bridges was initiated by Chief Justice Smith. The appointment is made under Mississippi Code Section 9-1-105, which gives the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of a majority of the justices of the Supreme Court, authority to appoint a special judge to serve on a temporary basis in a circuit or chancery court in the event of an emergency or overcrowded docket.

The special appointments are intended to give Hinds County Circuit Court’s four elected circuit judges more time to devote to their criminal and civil dockets.

The salaries of the special judges for Hinds County will be paid from general funds and from a $160,000 federal grant Gov. Haley Barbour obtained last year. Some of the grant can also be used to pay for the appointment of special judges in Jackson County to hear cases involving Hurricane Katrina insurance disputes due to the recusal of that county’s judges.

State statute requires that salary for retired special judges is calculated based on days of service at a rate of 1/260 of the current salary in effect for the judicial office. The statute limits retired special judges’ annual earnings to 25 percent of the current salary in effect for a chancery or circuit court judge. Chancery and circuit judges earn $104,170 per year.

Judge Bridges retired Dec. 31, 2005, after 11 years of service on the Mississippi Court of Appeals. He was one of the original members of the Mississippi Court of Appeals, and he served as its chief judge and as a presiding judge. Judge Bridges previously served as a chancery judge of the 20th Chancery District of Rankin County, as district attorney for the 20th Circuit Court District of Rankin and Madison counties, and as Rankin County prosecuting attorney.

Since his retirement from the Court of Appeals, Judge Bridges has been appointed by the Supreme Court to hear individual cases in districts across the state where local judges have recused themselves.

Judge Hilburn retired May 31, 2002, after 30 years on the bench, 21 of that as circuit judge in the Seventh Circuit Court. The district previously included Hinds and Yazoo counties.