Taylor: Court not backed up like some

Published 5:00 am Thursday, August 4, 2005

Judge Mike Taylor said the 14th Circuit Court District hasavoided many of the problems that have plagued other districts.

Speaking Wednesday to the Brookhaven Kiwanis Club, Taylor saidthe court dockets in Lincoln, Pike and Walthall counties have notseen “runaway litigation” or backed up dockets like other districtshave. He credited court officials’ efforts in disposing of thecases.

“They aren’t resolved as quickly as anyone in the system wouldlike,” Taylor said. “But compared to other districts, we’reresolving them as quickly as they can be resolved.”

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Taylor, who was appointed in February after Keith Starrettbecame a federal judge, said he and fellow Circuit Judge Mike Smithhave about 600 cases each on the docket each year.

Those include criminal and civil matters. Taylor said about 85percent of circuit court work is criminal.

Taylor said he and Smith each handle about 400 indictments eachyear across the district. Plea agreements and other pretrialactivities are necessary in many cases to move them along.

“We’ve criminalized a lot of things that didn’t use to becriminal,” said Taylor, citing failure to pay child support and badchecks as examples.

Taylor also credited Drug Court, which was founded inMississippi in 1999 by Starrett, with having a positive influenceon the district and citizens’ lives. The program requirestreatment, weekly visits with the judge, holding a job and otherduties.

“They need to be sober and they need to be supervised, but theydon’t necessarily need to be incarcerated,” said Taylor aboutparticipants, citing the alternative of a prison stay at about$22,000 a year per inmate.

The program has approximately 150 to 180 participants at anygiven time. Taylor said there is about a 70 percent successrate.

In other court matters, the first-year judge applauded a recentlegislative change eliminating the “herd” method of electingjudges.

In the “herd” system, incumbent judges and challengers all ranfor election together with the top vote-getters winning. Taylorechoed Starrett’s assertion that the “herd” system was badgovernment and bad politics.

“It was every man for himself,” Taylor said. “It amounted to abad situation with two people perpetual political opponents.”

Now, judges will be assigned posts and candidates will choosewhich judge to challenge. The new election method is expected to bein effect for next year’s contests.