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Vicksburg Municipal Court resumes regular schedule Monday

Vicksburg Municipal Court resumes its regular schedule Monday after more than a month.

According to information on the Vicksburg Police Department’s Facebook page, the court reconvenes Monday at 8 a.m.

Municipal Judge Angela Carpenter said the court had been operating on a modified schedule since March 15, when the Mississippi Supreme Court issued an order out of concern for the COVID-19 virus restricting the number of people in courtrooms that authorized judges to postpone jury trials and allowed them discretion to control their dockets.

 “We were only handling the inmate cases and more serious matters like the protective order matters,” she said.

She said arraignments and trials will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Community Court will be the first and third Tuesday, and domestic violence court the second and fourth Tuesday. Arraignments are also held every Thursday.

Carpenter said the decision to resume regular court sessions came after the state Supreme Court issued an order May 7 allowing courts in counties reporting two or fewer deaths to resume trials. At the time, Warren County had two COVID-19 deaths.

“Now that we are going back to our regular docket, we’ll resume with our trials and other hearings we’ve had on a regular basis, except there are going to be some differences,” she said.

Those changes include:

• No more than 10 people will be allowed in the police department lobby while court is in session. Other people must wait outside until they receive permission to enter the building.

• People who have COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms, or have been in contact with someone who has the virus, they must inform a police officer or court employees so their case can be rescheduled.

• People entering the courtroom must wear a mask covering their face from nose to chin and submit to a temperature screening before entering the courtroom.

• Anyone with a temperature greater than 100.4 will not be allowed in the courtroom.

• Only people with business before the court will be allowed in the courtroom; only 10 people will be allowed in the courtroom at any time, and social distancing will be enforced.

• Each prisoner will be allowed to have one family member in the courtroom during the court proceedings.

“The measures we’re putting in place right now are basically safeguards that have been recommended due to COVID, so we’re trying to keep that for now,” Carpenter said.

While municipal court does not hold jury trials, she said, “We still get a pretty high volume of traffic coming into court because on a daily basis we have a lot of people coming in for hearings and other matters. I would even say we see far more people coming in and out of the courtroom and the PD than circuit courts do.”

The plan for resuming court, she said, is to begin working with smaller dockets.

“We’re hoping we’re not working with too large a docket because then I might have to postpone some things to another date; I don’t want to have to do that, but at the same time, I don’t want a large amount of people coming through the court in a matter of a few hours, either,” she said. 

Carpenter said the modified court period has caused a case backlog, adding she talked with court administrator Janice Carter about the situation.

“It shouldn’t be too bad,” she said. “We’re not looking at doing court on the weekends; I’m not going to do any of that. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we may have to start earlier than 1 p.m. as we have in the past. (But) once it gets started back, it should roll the way it should.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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