Local opinions wanted

Published 11:23 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2007

NATCHEZ — Residents will have the chance tonight to share opinions on the state’s justice court system.

Earlier this year, the state legislature charged a task force — made up of judges, clerks, county officials and legislators — with gathering opinions on the topic.

The task force is hosting forums around the state and will present a report to the legislature on their findings.

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All Mississippi residents are invited to the 6 p.m. session at the Adams County Courthouse, Beverly Pettigrew Kraft, spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said.

“It’s very informal,” Kraft said. “We want people to come and participate. That’s the whole idea. But it’s not a forum for airing a complaint about a particular case or against a particular judge.”

Discussion will be restricted to the following topics:

4Duties and services provided by justice court judges.

4Training for justice court judges.


4Jurisdictional limits.

4Uniform rules of procedure for justice courts.

4Whether jury trials should occur in justice courts.

4Time and manner of justice court elections and the feasibility of nonpartisan elections.

Adams County Justice Court Judge Charlie Vess said the last topic was one many judges felt passionately about. Vess said he’d prefer justice court elections be nonpartisan and held along with other judgeships rather than county officials.

“I think it’s very important we don’t get caught up in partisan politics,” Vess said. “We shouldn’t be Democrats or Republicans. We should always retain the guy-in-the-middle stance.”

Judge Mary Toles said she felt uniform rules and enforcement was something to be addressed.

Toles said she was enthusiastic about the forums.

“(Justice court) is perceived as the people’s court,” Toles said. “You need feedback everywhere. I think the outcome will be something positive.”

Both judges said they planned to attend tonight’s forum.