Vollor hunts down space for overflow trials

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 7, 2002

[2/27/02] Space for trials outside the Warren County Courthouse has tentatively been booked by a circuit judge here to speed up litigation as suggested by the state Supreme Court.

Circuit Judge Frank Vollor said he may use courtrooms at police headquarters and in the Downtown Post Office for up to 10 weeks from May through December.

During those weeks the circuit courtroom in the Warren County Courthouse is reserved for Vollor’s fellow 9th District judge, Isadore Patrick.

Time standards, Mississippi’s first, suggested by Chief Justice Edwin Pittman, call for civil cases to be resolved within 18 months of filing and for people accused of committing felony crimes to be tried within nine months of being arraigned on a felony indictment.

“We’ve got to move things along,” said Vollor, who has about 120 civil and 189 criminal cases pending. “Cases don’t get disposed of until I set a date.”

The Warren County Courthouse has three courtrooms, two on the second floor and one on the third which is used by Chancellor Vicki Barnes. The county also has a courtroom in its new juvenile justice complex and a courtroom in the justice court building. During remodeling and other tight times, the federal courtroom in the Downtown Post Office has been used, as has an auditorium in the Board of Supervisors Building on Jackson Street and a former office supply store on Walnut at Veto Street.

Trial dates are typically set for Mondays, with a five-day week allotted to complete a trial. Cases often settle, though, before going to trial, so judges commonly assign each trial date more than one case. Vollor said his next available “first setting,” or first place in line for a particular trial date, for a civil case is in 10 months.

“Sometime in the future we’re probably going to have to make an annex to the courthouse,” said Richard George, president of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, “but that’s a rather expensive task and one that we can’t undertake at the present time.” The county is unlikely to build such an annex in the next five years, George said.

The county has undertaken major capital expenses in and around the courthouse in the past several years. More than $1 million was spent on new heating and cooling for the 60-year-old building and a $1.3 million roofing job is under way on the county jail. Supervisors have also voted to buy a new justice court building.

“We’re going to do our best to accommodate (the judges) as best we can,” George said of the time before a new courtroom could be added. “Whatever remedy we find will be temporary, and we hope it will suit the judges.”

Vollor, Warren County’s senior Circuit Judge, has been exploring options for alternate courtroom space for at least six months. The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Jan. 10 not to allow him to reserve the Vicksburg Auditorium for the 10 trial dates, saying that would occupy the facility for too many rentable days.

Vicksburg’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen later helped arrange for Vollor to have an option to use the Vicksburg Municipal Courtroom in the police department for eight weeks, and Vollor secured an option on the Federal courtroom for the other two. Alderman Gertrude Young said the city did not plan to charge the county for the use of the courtroom.