Court of Appeals to conduct business in Natchez

Published 12:06 am Sunday, August 5, 2012

NATCHEZ — Sometimes, justice needs a second look.

This week, the State of Mississippi Judiciary’s Court of Appeals will be taking that look at a case in Natchez.

The case the court will be hearing isn’t a local one, Adams County Bar President Tim Cotton said, but it will be argued in Natchez by the invitation of the local bar.

Email newsletter signup

“(The Court of Appeals) has started trying to have court on the road some, and to my knowledge they had never had it in Adams County,” Cotton said.

Cotton said the idea to invite the court to hear arguments in Natchez was first suggested to him by Circuit Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders, and after consulting with the other circuit court judge, Forrest “Al” Johnson, he called the appeals court’s administrator to invite the appellate judges.

“When I called them, the court of appeals court administrator said, ‘If y’all would like to have us, we would like to come,’” Cotton said.

Oral arguments before the three-judge panel will be 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Adams County Circuit Courtroom.

Cotton said the public is welcome to view the arguments, and he encouraged them to come. Oral arguments before the appeals court are rare; of the 1,021 cases heard by Mississippi’s higher courts in 2009, only 58 were granted oral arguments before the court of appeals.

“Any time you have an opportunity to go in and listen to an individual’s Constitutional rights being safeguarded, it gives you an appreciation of the system we have,” he said.

Cotton said playing host to the appellate court’s proceedings will serve as a chance for taxpayers — and even attorneys — to be better educated about how the court system works.

“We are trying to roll out the red carpet as the (Adams County) bar and the community at large, because it is not every day you have one of your highest courts coming in to put on display what they do,” he said.

“It is an opportunity for the taxpayers to see one of the highest courts in action, to get a firsthand view of a major function of our jurisprudence system. They should come, because it is their courtroom, their judges, their counsels’ tables.

“As rare as oral arguments are, it is a rare thing to let the public come and look at the system and see how it works. There are some attorneys who have been practicing for years and never seen oral arguments (before the court of appeals).”

Mississippi has a two-tier system of appeals. The state Supreme Court assigns to the court of appeals cases that have been decided in circuit, chancery or county courts but are disputed. The cases the appeals court hears are for matters where the law is already settled but facts are disputed.

Once the court of appeals reaches a decision, a defendant can appeal it to the supreme court if the case is still in dispute.