Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph has appointed four special judges to assist the Hinds County Circuit Court in reducing the number of pending cases caused by the pandemic.
The special Judges are Andrew K. Howorth of Oxford, Betty W. Sanders of Greenwood, Stephen B. Simpson of Gulfport and Frank G. Vollor of Vicksburg.
“Chief Justice Randolph’s appointments respond to the urgent need to reduce the criminal case backlog in Hinds County,” said Greg Snowden, Director of the Administrative Office of Courts. “The Courts remained open throughout the worst of the pandemic, but crime didn’t take a holiday. Trials were postponed and dockets became congested. The Legislature has provided coronavirus relief funds to assist the Courts, the prosecutors and public defenders, Capital Police, and various other agencies in order to ameliorate the damage caused or exacerbated by COVID,” Snowden said.
The elected Hinds County Circuit Judges maintain active dockets, and they will continue to bring cases to trial or other final disposition. The aforementioned special judges appointed by the Chief Justice will concentrate on felony criminal cases that are part of the burgeoning regular dockets.
“Accused people have a right to their day in court, whether they are incarcerated pending trial or out on bond” Director Snowden noted. “If defendants are found guilty, they need to be sent to prison, but if they are found not guilty, they need to be released. Justice is served only when a final determination is made, one way or the other.”
Director Snowden commended the many public officials involved in the effort. “The sitting Hinds County Circuit Judges, the District Attorney’s office and the Public Defender’s office all have come together with the AOC to agree on an action plan, and the Circuit Clerk, the Sheriff and the Board of Supervisors will ensure courtroom facilities are available and secure. And, of course, the appointed special judges deserve thanks for agreeing to accept their appointments.”
Judge Howorth served for 18 ½ years on the Third Circuit Court. He retired June 30, 2020. The Third Circuit Court includes Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Lafayette, Marshall, Tippah and Union counties. He is former chairman of the Conference of Circuit Judges and served on the Board of Governors of the Mississippi Judicial College. He is a former member of the State Intervention Courts Advisory Committee.
Judge Sanders retired in December 2014 after 25 years of judicial service. She served for 20 years as a Circuit Judge of the 4th Circuit District of Leflore, Sunflower and Washington counties. She previously served for five years by appointment as a special magistrate hearing cases filed by prisoners at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. She is former chairman of the Conference of Circuit Judges. She served on the State Intervention Courts Advisory Committee and was president of the Mississippi Association of Drug Court Professionals. She served on the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project Board of Directors and as a member of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance, the Ethics Committee of the Mississippi Bar and the Bar Complaint Tribunal.
Judge Simpson served as a circuit judge of the Second Circuit District for eight years. He is former chairman of the Conference of Circuit Judges. He resigned the judgeship in May 2008 to accept appointment by the Governor as Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, where he served for almost three years. Before his appointment to the bench, he served for seven and one-half years as an assistant district attorney in the Second Circuit, which includes Hancock, Harrison and Stone counties. He is former president of the Mississippi Prosecutors Association.
Judge Vollor served for 20 years as a circuit judge of the Ninth Judicial District, which includes Issaquena, Sharkey and Warren counties. He retired from the bench on May 31, 2009, to return to the private practice of law. He was county prosecutor in Warren County for five and a half years before he took the bench.