4 Mississippi Judges Tapped To Help With Backlog Of Cases

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Four former circuit court judges will help handle a backlog of criminal cases that have accumulated in Mississippi's largest county during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph appointed Andrew K. Howorth of Oxford, Betty W. Sanders of Greenwood, Stephen B. Simpson of Gulfport and Frank G. Vollor of Vicksburg.

Administrative Office of Courts director Greg Snowden said in a news release Thursday that Hinds County has an urgent need to handle cases that were postponed when courtrooms were closed to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Accused people have a right to their day in court, whether they are incarcerated pending trial or out on bond,” Snowden said. “If defendants are found guilty, they need to be sent to prison, but if they are found not guilty, they need to be released."

Howorth retired in June 2020 after more than 18 years as a circuit judge in the 3rd Circuit in Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Lafayette, Marshall, Tippah and Union counties.

Sanders retired in December 2014. She was a judge for 20 years in the 4th Circuit in Leflore, Sunflower and Washington counties. Before that, she served five years as a special magistrate hearing cases filed by prisoners at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

Simpson is a former state lawmaker who served eight years as a judge in the 2nd Circuit in Hancock, Harrison and Stone counties. He resigned in May 2008 to become state public safety commissioner, serving almost three years.

Vollor is a former Warren County prosecutor who served 20 years in the 9th Circuit District in Issaquena, Sharkey and Warren counties. He returned to private law practice in May 2009.