Two dockets keep one judge busy

Published 5:00 am Friday, July 14, 2006

Fourteenth District Circuit Judge Mike Taylor said he expects nosubstantial difficulties while juggling the full schedules of bothposts within the district.

Taylor, of Brookhaven, assumed the docket of Post 2 Judge MikeSmith Monday. Smith, of McComb, announced his retirement after 12years on the bench in April and stepped down June 28.

Smith’s replacement will be decided in the Nov. 7 generalelection, where two candidates have qualified to replace him.

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David H. Strong Jr. and Michael T. Shareef are both McCombattorneys. Strong has a private practice and Shareef is a legalservices attorney.

In the meantime, Taylor said he will supervise and adjudicateboth dockets.

“We’re maintaining two separate dockets, and we’re handling itthe same as Judge Smith handled it before my appointment. It workedwell,” he said.

Taylor was appointed as the Post 1 circuit judge in February2005 when former Circuit Judge Keith Starrett was appointed as afederal judge. Taylor is unopposed this year in his first contestfor the Place 1 post.

The judge said he expects the process to go smoothly, but admitsthere will be adjustments.

Criminal trials on either docket will not be rescheduled, hesaid, because they are court priorities. However, some civil casesmay have to be postponed.

“It will be difficult to maintain both dockets, particularlyover a period of time,” Taylor said. “We’ve only had to reschedulethree trials, which is pretty good considering how many wereset.”

According to court dockets, approximately 40 civil trials hadbeen scheduled for the next two months in the 14th District, whichincludes Lincoln, Pike and Walthall counties.

Last year, Taylor said, each judge handled more than 600criminal and civil cases.

“I was surprised he left when he did, but he left things in goodshape,” Taylor said of Smith’s decision. “His docket is current andthat will make it more manageable.”

July has proven to be especially busy, Taylor said.

Typically a slow month, both judges had scheduled three specialcourt terms this month to try cases and eliminate a backlog. Taylorhad scheduled a special court term while Smith had scheduled two,all in Pike County.

“We rely on special terms to keep the docket current becausethere’s usually not enough dates in a regular term to get it done,”Taylor said.

He said he has been able to maintain all three specialterms.

Balancing both dockets would be near impossible without thesupport and cooperation of court administrators and county circuitclerks, he said. Linda Moore, Smith’s court administrator, willstay on to facilitate his former docket.

“They just did this a year and a half ago before my appointment,so they’re familiar with it,” he said. “They do a good job ofkeeping things current.”

Taylor said he will continue to hold Drug Court and arraignmentsand to hear pleas in Lincoln County each Monday afternoon.