CATEGORY: Tupelo Stories

AUTHOR: MOULDE

HED:Tupelo to consider court expansion

5/31

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

The Tupelo City Council will be asked Tuesday to hire more judges and a full-time prosecutor to battle a growing backlog of municipal court cases.

The recommendation was one of several options presented to the council earlier this month to meet a crush of roughly 3,600 cases. In some cases, the court is experiencing trial delays of up to a year.

And the backlog could double within the year if something isn't done, Municipal Court Judge Grant Fox said.

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Under the proposal, the city would hire two associate judges at a salary of $33,750 each, and a full-time prosecutor at a salary of $45,000 to $50,000 a year. The plan also would require that three deputy clerks be added, at an annual salary of $20,628 each.

Third city branch

The change would permit the court to conduct two full trial sessions a week, plus two plea sessions and various other functions. Currently, the court conducts only one trial day a week and takes pleas on a second day.

The new plan also would establish the court as a clear third branch of the city, with the judge as judicial chief joining the council as the legislative arm and the mayor as the administrative head. The judge would head the department, and the court director would work directly under the three judges.

The rest of the staff, including the warrant officer and bailiff, would serve under the director.

Fox said concerns that a full-time prosecutor couldn't be found for $45,000 or $50,000 proved unfounded. Initial inquiries into possible applicants produced 15 to 20 resumes, he said.

"There was quite a bit of interest at that salary," Fox said. "And there were people with experience."

Officials also believe a full-time prosecutor would be able to offer more assistance to the police department, especially in areas of arrest procedures and case preparation.

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