Justice Court Task Force to hold public hearings in Jackson Sept. 25

September 24, 2007

The Justice Court Task Force will hold public hearings at the Hinds County Courthouse in Jackson on Tuesday, Sept. 25. The hearings will be on the second floor.

The hearings are being held to gather information from members of the public who wish to voice concerns about the state Justice Court system.

Between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday, representatives of public agencies and organizations are invited to speak. Speakers are expected to be given 10 minutes each during the afternoon session. Agencies and organizations are also asked to provide written statements to the Task Force.

Members of the general public are invited to speak between 6 and 7 p.m. Each speaker will be given five minutes during the evening session. Those individuals are not required to present written comments.

The Task Force seeks public comment with regard to these specific topics:

• duties and services provided by Justice Court judges;

• training for Justice Court judges;

• salaries for Justice Court judges;

• jurisdictional limits for Justice Courts;

• Uniform Rules of Procedure for Justice Courts;

• whether jury trials should occur in Justice Courts;

• time and manner of Justice Court elections and the feasibility of non-partisan elections.

The Task Force will limit its inquiry to the areas specified by the 2007 Legislature when it created the study group via adoption of Senate Bill Senate Bill 2567. The Task Force will focus on the Justice Court system.

The Task Force will not delve into a particular case. The hearings are not for airing complaints about the outcome of a case or grievances about a particular judge. The appeals process through the court system and the complaint process through the Commission on Judicial Performance are appropriate routes for those matters.

Supreme Court Justice Mike Randolph of Hattiesburg, chair of the Task Force, will serve as moderator for the public hearings.

Nine public hearings have been scheduled across the state. The Task Force has already conducted hearings in Tupelo, Senatobia, Kosciusko and Natchez. The remaining hearings will be Oct. 1 in Gulfport, Oct. 2 in Hattiesburg, Oct. 4 in Indianola and Oct. 8 in Meridian.

Information gathered from the public hearings will be included in a Task Force report which will be presented to the Legislature no later than Dec. 1.

The Task Force is made up of nine voting members and four ex-officio members. Other members of the Task Force are: Circuit Judge James T. Kitchens Jr. of Columbus, vice-chair; Amite County Justice Court Judge Roger Arnold; Marshall County Justice Court Judge Ernest Cunningham; Webster County Justice Court Judge Jerry Jones; Carroll County Circuit Clerk Durward Stanton; Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins; Warren County Court Judge John S. Price Jr.; Copiah County Supervisor Perry Hood; Sen. Terry Burton of Newton; Sen. Charlie Ross of Brandon; Rep. Willie L. Bailey of Greenville; and Rep. Thomas U. Reynolds II of Charleston.