Mississippi Limited Jurisdiction Courts
Drug courts are designed to divert offenders with substance abuse problems from the general court docket and provide them comprehensive services to treat their dependency and offer alternatives to crime. In 2015 about 4,000 people were served in drug court.
Youth Courts handle abuse and neglect of juveniles, as well as juvenile crime. County Court judges serve as youth court judges. Chancery judges may hear Youth Court cases or appoint a lawyer to act in a judicial capacity for the proceedings in counties without a dedicated youth court. The city of Pearl also has its own municipal Youth Court.
Municipal courts have jurisdiction over violations of local ordinances, traffic violations and misdemeanor crimes. Judges may hold arraignments, bond hearings and preliminary hearings. Judges are appointed by local elected officials. There are 226 such courts, one or more in every town.
Justice Courts handle small claims cases involving up to $3,500, misdemeanor criminal cases and traffic offenses that take place outside a municipal jurisdiction. Judges issue search warrants, hold bond hearings and preliminary hearings for felony charges. There are 82 of these courts with 197 judges who are elected to four-year terms.
County Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over eminent domain issues and juvenile matters; they issue search warrants, hold bond hearings and handle non-capital felony cases moved from Circuit Court. These courts may share civil jurisdiction with Circuit and Chancery courts. The jurisdictional limit of County Courts is up to $200,000. County Courts have concurrent jurisdiction with Justice Courts. There are 21 county courts with 30 judges who are elected to serve four-year terms. These courts saw about 24,000 cases (civil) filed in 2015.
Chancery Courts have jurisdiction over equity disputes; domestic issues including adoptions, custody and divorces; guardianships; some mental health hearings; wills; and challenges to constitutionality of state laws. Property records are kept in Chancery Court. Juvenile cases are heard here in counties without a county court. Trials are usually heard by a single chancellor, although state law allows jury trials. The state is divided into 20 Chancery Court districts. There are 49 Chancery Court judges, at least one and not more than four per court who are elected to four-year terms. These courts received over 65,000 cases filed in 2015, a significant drop from over 88,000 filed a few years ago. Of the approximately 65,000 cases filed, about 60,000 were disposed.
Mississippi Circuit Court
Circuit Courts hear felony criminal cases, civil suits, appeals from justice, municipal and county courts and from state administrative boards and commissions. The state is divided into 22 Circuit Court districts with 53 Circuit Court judges elected to four-year terms. Circuit court trials may be conducted with or without a jury. These courts saw about 16,000 civil cases filed in 2015 along with about 20,000 criminal cases.
Mississippi Court of Appeals
Created in 1995, the Court of Appeals is assigned cases by the Supreme Court. Judges review cases to determine if any errors were made by the lower courts in the application of the law. The court is comprised of 10 judges from five districts. Judges are elected to eight year terms.
In 2015 the court disposed of 471 cases and over 1,800 motions and petitions. It heard oral arguments in 33 cases.
Mississippi Supreme Court
Verdicts of lower courts may be appealed to the state Supreme Court. The court chooses to hear some cases and may assign others to the court of appeals for review. Other cases are appealed directly to this level, including death penalty cases, misconduct by attorneys and judges, election issues, and when the constitutionality of a law is questioned. The court's nine judges are elected for eight-year terms from three districts. In 2015 this court disposed of 419 cases and over 4,000 motions and petitions. It heard oral arguments in 48 cases.
Mississippi Notable Court Cases
A federal court stopped Mississippi from enforcing a new law that shields businesses that don't want to serve gay, lesbian, transgender, or queer customers out of a sense of religious conviction. The law seeks to allow businesses to deny services to anyone whose lifestyle conflicts with the business owner's religious beliefs, but federal courts are thus far preventing its implementation. The governor of Mississippi may appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
The state Supreme Court overruled a circuit court judge's injunction that prevented a new "'open carry" firearms law to go into effect. The circuit court judge had determined that the law was vague and therefore likely unconstitutional, so he delayed it for 60 days. The Supreme Court vacated the judge's injunction and put the law into effect.