Justice court’s cheese holes filling a bit

Published 12:26 am Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reforming Mississippi’s Justice Court system is long overdue. For far too long the court system has been riddled with holes like the Swiss cheese of the judicial system — strange, irregular holes.

Long a key part of the system — Justice Courts generally handle a much higher volume of cases than that of other courts — the system for choosing judges is simply a bit antiquated.

For the most part the requirements to run for a Justice Court judge position pretty much begin and end with the requirement of having a pulse.

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And, in what can only be described as an example of the good old boy system hanging on for dear life, Justice Court judge candidates are the only judges in the state who still run for office with a political party affiliation — so much for completely non-partisan judges.

On top of that, pay scales for Justice Court judges vary radically from county to county. A swing of more than $43,000 can separate between the least paid and the highest.

The Mississippi Senate recently passed Senate Bill 2571 which, among other things, begins to clear up some of the problems with Justice Court and begins to fill in some of the “holes” in the system.

A key first step is requiring judges to complete some basic training requirements and also pursue continuing education credits, not unlike teachers must do.

In addition, the bill aims to make the pay discrepancies a bit less drastic, too.

Unfortunately, it stops short of actually making Justice Court judge races non-partisan. But it’s a start.

A few holes filled, a few dozen more yet to plug.