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Former Justice, CPS Commissioner Jess Dickinson to assist Hinds County Court

July 31, 2020

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph on July 30 appointed Jess H. Dickinson of Madison as a special judge to assist the Hinds County Court.

Judge Faye Peterson

Hinds County Court Judge Johnnie McDaniels requested the temporary appointment of a special judge to assist the court.

The appointment of Judge Dickinson is the fifth in recent days for Hinds County, all at the request of local judges, to assist with the backlog of cases that has resulted from delays caused by COVID-19. Chief Justice Randolph on July 24 appointed four retired veteran judges to preside as special judges in Hinds County and Chancery Courts. The appointments are through Dec. 30.

Resident Jurist and former Adams County Court Judge John N. Hudson of Natchez was appointed to assist recently appointed Hinds County Court Judge Carlyn M. Hicks in Youth Court, at her request. Former Hinds County Court Judge James D. Bell of Jackson was appointed to assist Hinds County Court Judge LaRita Cooper-Stokes, at her request. Retired Hinds County Chancery Judges Patricia D. Wise of Jackson and William H. Singletary of Clinton were appointed to assist the four chancellors of the Hinds Chancery Court at the request of Senior Chancellor Denise Owens.

More special judges are expected to be appointed to temporarily assist judges in districts across the state. A special judge was appointed on July 30 in the 16th Chancery Courts of Jackson, George and Greene counties. Special judges were appointed on July 31 in the 21st Circuit Court of Holmes, Humphreys and Yazoo counties, and in the Warren County Court. Other judges around the state have requested special judge appointments.

COVID-19 has presented a multitude of challenges to the prompt and efficient administration of justice. The disruption caused by COVID-19 required an untold number of continuances since it was declared a national emergency on March 13. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 cases may have been affected.

The Mississippi Legislature appropriated $2.5 million of CARES Act money to assist the courts. Special judges to be appointed around the state will be paid with CARES Act funds which will be available through Dec. 30, 2020.

Justice Dickinson served on the Mississippi Supreme Court from January 2004 until September 2017. He was a founding member of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, and served as the Supreme Court's liaison to organizations providing legal services to the poor. He left the Supreme Court to become Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services, the state child welfare agency. He retired from Child Protection Services this past January. Before he joined the Supreme Court, he served for a year by special appointment as a Circuit Judge for the 12th Judicial District of Forrest and Perry counties. He taught evidence and trial practice as an adjunct professor at Mississippi College School of Law for many years. Before his election to the bench, he practiced law for more than 20 years, mostly on the Gulf Coast.

Judge Dickinson joined the ranks of senior status judges May 1. Senior status judges are retired judges who have agreed to accept appointments by the Supreme Court to hear cases in which local judges have recused themselves due to conflicts or in other special circumstances, such as to address a backlog. A total of 71 retired judges are senior status judges. They include retirees from all levels of the state court system: Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Chancery Court, Circuit Court and County Court.

Here is a link to the special judge appointment order for Judge Dickinson: https://courts.ms.gov/appellatecourts/docket/sendPDF.php?f=700_507441.pdf&c=92278&a=N&s=2.

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