Forrest court zips through cases

When Forrest County Circuit Judge Bob Helfrich took office in 2003, for a moment, he thought he’d gotten himself into more than he could handle.

Helfrich said he inherited a clogged judicial system – one where cases barely went to trial and docket entries weren’t properly documented.

News of the backlogged system led to the “Slow Justice” series of stories by the Hattiesburg American.

The newspaper’s four-month survey of court records in late 2002 revealed 865 criminal defendants were waiting for trial dates. Officials also estimated that there were cases with crimes dating to the 1980s still pending.

But recent court disposition numbers from 1999 until 2008, specifically those since Helfrich took office, show cases are moving along quicker.

“We had a significant backlog, and we have worked on that backlog,” Helfrich said. “Yet, (we’ve) tried to keep relatively current on the newer cases.”

Clarion-Ledger 4/13/9