Form for filing a civil suit in Justice Court must be signed in the presence of Deputy Clerk
Responsibilities of the Justice Court
Additionally, Justice Court handles fines resulting from citations by the Mississippi Highway Patrol and Fish and Wildlife Department officers. It holds court for citizens who protest such citations. It also holds court to settle criminal violations occurring outside the municipalities but within the county and performs marriage ceremonies. It issues process papers, subpoenas and warrants requiring an appearance in court on a specified date.
The officers of the court consist of Justice Court Clerk, or Court Administrator, 15 deputy clerks, a bailiff and four judges. Process papers, subpoenas, and warrants are served by Constables who are elected officials.
A 1984 statute by the Mississippi Legislature requiring a competent number of justice court judges in each county eliminated the Justice of the Peace System and established the present Justice Court System.
Background of the Justice Court
Justice Courts handle civil actions under $3,500, and criminal law misdemeanors. Additionally, these courts determine in felony criminal charges whether or not to bind a person over to await the action of the county grand jury. Justice Court Judges set bail, issue search warrants, and all trials (except preliminary hearings) may be jury.
Justice Courts are served by clerks (appointed by the board of supervisors) who are required to receive ongoing continuing education and training each year.
Justice Court Judges are elected for four year terms and are paid regular salaries. A high school diploma is mandated, and Judges must complete continuing educational requirements prior to taking office and in each year of service thereafter.
Appeal from the Justice Courts are to the County Courts (if one is available) or the Circuit Courts, and in either event, a completely new trial is had. There is no court reporter employed in the Justice Courts, but litigants may provide their own reporters if a record of any proceeding is desired.
By definition, the Justice Court is one of limited jurisdiction, but it is both busy and important as it provides most citizens their first contact with the justice system in general.
The number of justice court judges for each county is determined by population within the county. Counties with a population of less than 35,000 there shall be two justice court judges. Counties that have a population between 35,000 and 70,000 shall have three justice court judges. Counties that have a population between 70,000 and 150,000 shall have four justice court judges. Counties with a population exceeding 150,000 shall have 5 justice court judges. The board of supervisors is required to create single member election districts in the county for the election of each justice court judge.
Justice court judges are required to hold regular terms of court at times subject to their discretion. Judges are required to hold at least one session of court per month, but not more than two, at a reasonable time in a courtroom established by the board of supervisors.
The board of supervisors shall appoint a clerk of the justice court system as well as deputy justice court clerks. The justice court clerks and deputy justice court clerks are empowered to file and record actions and pleadings, and acknowledge affidavits for the justice court. They also have the authority to collect filing fees and fines on behalf of the justice court.
Every justice court judge is required to take the oath of office prescribed by Article 6, Section 155 of the Mississippi Constitution. The justice court judge is also required to post a bond in the same manner as other county officers. Justice court judges are also required to give bond payable in a penalty equal to $10,000.
If the justice court judge resigns from office or the term of office expires he is required to deliver within ten (10) days of vacating the office, the case record with all papers and books of statutes relating to the office of justice court judge, to the clerk of the justice court.