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

Supreme Court adopts Uniform Rules of Youth Court Practice

January 14, 2009

The Mississippi Supreme Court has adopted Uniform Rules of Youth Court Practice. The rules became effective Jan. 8, 2009.

There has never previously been one comprehensive set of rules to complement the statutes and guide judges, attorneys, social workers, law enforcement and others who deal with the interests of children. The Mississippi Youth Court Act was passed in 1979. Other state statutes regarding juveniles are scattered throughout the Mississippi Code. Matters dealing with juveniles also must comply with federal law.

Abuse and neglect of juveniles, as well as delinquent acts committed by juveniles, are matters within the jurisdiction of the Youth Court. The structure of Youth Courts vary across the state, and practices vary by jurisdiction. In the 20 counties which have a County Court, those judges also serve as Youth Court judges. In counties which do not have a County Court, the Chancery Judge appoints a lawyer to act in a judicial capacity as Youth Court Referee, or in a few counties, the Chancery Judge hears Youth Court cases. The city of Pearl has its own municipal Youth Court.

The Task Force for Youth Court Rules of Procedure made extensive recommendations to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Justice Mike Randolph of Hattiesburg, co-chair of the Task Force for Youth Court Rules of Procedure, said, “Prior to the adoption of these rules, Youth Courts throughout the state lacked uniformity on procedures....Uniformity is critical to assist litigants and practitioners. Whether they are in Pascagoula or Pontotoc, it ought to be the same.”

Having uniform rules “helps everyone to understand their roles in the system to effectively ensure proper treatment of the youth in the state,” Justice Randolph said.

The uniform rules will also help ensure that Youth Court orders are consistent with the requirements of federal law, Justice Randolph said.

Clay County Youth Court Referee Thomas B. Storey of West Point served as co-chair of the Task Force. Judge Storey, who also is chair of the Council of Youth Court Judges, said, “I’m very pleased that for the first time, all practitioners in the Youth Courts of Mississippi will have one legal document to use while practicing in the Youth Court.”

The Uniform Rules of Youth Court Practice are available on the Supreme Court’s web site at:

Some of the topics addressed by the new rules include:

• compliance with federal requirements regarding permanent placement of children removed from the custody of parents and placed in foster care;

• procedures for taking a child into custody on allegations of delinquent acts;

• procedures for each step of the Youth Court process;

• rights of juveniles in custody for delinquency and child in need of supervision proceedings;

• proper facilities for detention of juveniles;

• transfers of cases from Youth Court to other courts;

• summonses to juveniles, parents or other family members regarding Youth Court hearings;

• appointment of an attorney known as a guardian ad litem to represent the interest of a child;

• foster care hearings;

• truancy of children and educational neglect by parents;

• placement of children who exhibit a need for mental health services;

• the legal process, known as interstate compact, dealing with transfer of children from one state to another while under the protection of the Department of Human services or similar agency in another state.

The Mississippi Supreme Court has rule-making authority over all state courts. The Supreme Court in October 2007 created the Task Force for Youth Court Rules of Procedure and charged it with overseeing development of a set of uniform rules of procedure. The 12-member Task Force included judges and representatives of the Department of Human Services, Department of Mental Health, Department of Education and the Administrative Office of Courts. The Mississippi Judicial College drafted the proposed rules. The Task Force submitted its recommendations to the Supreme Court on July 1, 2008.

The Supreme Court Rules Committee revised the recommendations and sought public comment. At the request of the Rules Committee, the Task Force convened again in December 2008 to address issues raised in public comments. The Task Force made additional recommendations, and the Supreme Court made modifications. The Supreme Court by unanimous vote adopted the Uniform Rules of Youth Court Practice on Dec. 11, 2008.

Judge Storey said, “I would like to thank Justice Randolph and all of the members of the Task Force for their many months of hard work.”