Public comments sought on proposed Rules of Criminal Procedure

September 26, 2011

The Rules Committee on Criminal Practice and Procedure is seeking public comments on a body of proposed criminal court rules which would address every aspect of criminal proceedings from the initiation of criminal charges through post-trial motions.

The proposed Mississippi Rules of Criminal Procedure would comprise a single, uniform set of rules which would govern criminal procedures in Justice, Municipal, County and Circuit Courts. The proposal sets out 35 rules which would cover the criminal complaint, search warrant, arrest warrant, initial appearance, preliminary hearing, appointment of counsel, bond, grand jury, indictment, arraignment, plea, trial, evidence, sentencing and other issues.

“This is comprehensive,” said Justice Ann H. Lamar of Senatobia, who heads the Supreme Court Rules Committee on Criminal Practice and Procedure.

The deadline for submitting comments is Dec. 16. Public comments should be filed in writing and submitted to the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Gartin Justice Building, P.O. Box 249, Jackson, Mississippi 39205-0249.

A copy of the 111-page proposal is available on the Mississippi Judiciary web site at Click Here.

The Rules Committee on Criminal Practice and Procedure is studying the proposal. The Supreme Court has not yet taken action on the proposed rule changes. No timetable has been set for action by the Supreme Court.

The Rules Committee will take into account the public comments before making recommendations to the nine-member Supreme Court.

Justice Lamar said, “We expect it to be a very detailed process. It is going to be time-consuming.”

The proposal would be a new set of rules which would replace various current rules.

“The proposal calls for some significant changes,” Justice Lamar said. “There are some new provisions. In some ways it’s a matter of pulling together from the different rules some of the things we already do. The Study Committee has considered a number of other states’ uniform rules of criminal procedure as well as the federal rules.

“We are hopeful that the groups that are affected, particularly the trial judges, municipal and justice court judges, clerks, prosecutors and defense attorneys, will give careful attention to the proposals,” Justice Lamar said.

She noted that it would be helpful if the commentaries include not only criticisms of the proposed rules, but also thoughts about proposed changes which the writers favor. “We would like to hear the good things and the bad things.”

The Uniform Criminal Rules Study Committee, an independent study group appointed by former Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr., spent more than six years reviewing every aspect of criminal proceedings. The Study Committee sought to create a proposal for a comprehensive, uniform set of criminal rules of procedure that would be applicable to all criminal prosecutions. The Study Committee has stated that its objective was to develop a set of Rules of Criminal Procedure to govern practice and procedure in criminal cases and to be uniform from district to district and from court to court, including Justice Court, Municipal Court, County Court, and Circuit Court.

Court of Appeals Judge Larry E. Roberts of Meridian, co-chair of the Study Committee, said, “Our committee labored for six long years in an effort to develop appropriate criminal procedural rules to govern criminal cases across the state. Serving gratuitously on the committee were experienced jurists, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys. It was our earnest desire to recommend rules that would result in a fairer, more efficient administration of the criminal justice system.”

The proposal says in its statement of purpose and construction, “These Rules are to be interpreted to provide for the just and speedy determination of every criminal proceeding, to secure simplicity in procedure and fairness in administration, to eliminate unjustifiable delay and expense, and to protect the fundamental rights of the individual while preserving the public welfare.”

Judge Roberts and former Circuit Judge R. I. Prichard III of Picayune served as co-chairs of the Study Committee. Study Committee members were Court of Appeals Chief Judge L. Joseph Lee of Jackson; Rankin County Court Judge Kent McDaniel of Brandon; Forrest County Court Judge Michael W. McPhail of Hattiesburg; District Attorney Ronnie Harper of Natchez; District Attorney John R. Young of Corinth; Special Assistant Attorney General Ed Snyder of Jackson; attorney Joe Sam Owen of Gulfport; attorney John M. Colette of Jackson; attorney Thomas E. Royals of Jackson; and attorney Jim Lappan of Fort Myers., Fla., who formerly worked for the Mississippi Office of Capital Defense Counsel.