Mississippi Justice Court Judges are up in arms over a proposed rule change that would require businesses who appear in justice court to retain the services of a lawyer. The proposed rule actually originated from the Justice Court Rules Advisory Committee which is comprised by..you guessed it..Justice Court Judges! The rule is currently pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court who has to now take time to consider the rule which apparently most of the justice court judges don’t even like. Nice waste of taxpayer’s money.
For those who are not familiar with Mississippi’s justice court system, justice court judges preside over misdemeanor criminal cases (like DUI, simple assault, domestic violence, etc.), conduct preliminary hearings on felony cases, and handle civil claims which do not exceed $2,500 in money damages. Justice Court judges are not required to be lawyers or even have a college degree. Justice Court judges are simply required to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. The job pays $45,000 annually.
I have a problem with anyone presiding over a criminal or civil matter who is not an attorney. I went to college and law school (7 years total) and then had to pass the Mississippi Bar Exam in order to practice law in this state. I then have to try cases in front of “judges” who wouldn’t know a hearsay objection from a relevance objection. That’s not a personal attack on anyone it’s just a fact. Would you go to a “doctor” who never went to medical school? Then why do we let people who aren’t lawyers sit as judges? It invokes memories of Snuffy Smith going in front of the local Justice of the Peace.
We have many good justice court judges in Mississippi who are lawyers. Heck, we’ve got some pretty good ones who are not lawyers. As a lawyer who appears in justice courts, I would like the legislators to pass a law requiring all justice court judges to be lawyers. It’s simply ridiculous in this day and age to have non lawyers hearing criminal cases and deciding if a person has to go to jail for up to one year. But, that’s not going to happen. The justice court judges have a strong lobbying group to keep things just the way they are.
Charles R. “Chuck” Mullins has been practicing law in Mississippi courts for almost 17 years helping citizens protect their rights. Learn more about Chuck at the Coxwell & Associates website.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.