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49 new Justice Court judges to take office in January

Forty-nine new Justice Court judges completed two weeks of intensive judicial training in Jackson. The judges will take office in January. It may be the largest group of new Justice Court judges in the history of the Mississippi Judicial College’s training program, said Judicial College Director Randy Pierce. The state has a total of 198 Justice Court judges. Pierce noted that 40 of the new judges are lay persons and nine are lawyers. Justice Courts are the only courts in Mississippi in which judges don’t have to be lawyers. Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph and Court of Appeals Chief Judge Donna Barnes spoke to the new judges at the Supreme Court on Dec. 2, the first day of the training program. Both told the new judges that more people will encounter the justice system in their courtrooms than in any other level of court. Chief Judge Barnes said, “The perception of justice of most citizens is forged out of contact with Justice Court judges.” Chief Justice Randolph told the new judges to be fair, not harsh; to treat everyone with dignity; and to avoid conflicts of interest. “Treat them the way you would like to be treated if you were on the other side,” he said. “That’s what everyone has to realize: when they come to your court, they are getting a fair deal.” Judges must observe strict rules of conduct outside the office as well as in the courtroom. Chief Justice Randolph told them that people who have a case before the court may try to talk about it when they encounter a judge while out shopping or going about other personal business. It’s a pitfall they must avoid. “Don’t get involved in a conversation” about court cases. State law requires new Justice Court judges to complete an 80-hour training course put on by the Mississippi Judicial College and pass a minimum competency examination. All Justice Court judges must annually complete 24 hours of continuing education classes conducted by the Judicial College. Teresa Bozeman of Copiah County is one of the new judges who completed the course.

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