A retired county and youth court judge from Hattiesburg has been appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court to help Forrest County courts with handling the backlog of cases that has accumulated because of delays from the COVID-19 pandemic.
On. Sept. 24, the court announced that Chief Justice Michael Randolph appointed Michael McPhail to the task after Forrest County Court Judge Carol Jones Russell requested appointment of a special judge on a temporary basis. McPhail will assist in that endeavor through Dec. 20.
McPhail served as Forrest County Court and youth court judge for 34.5 years. He took state retirement in June 2018 but continued to serve as judge through the end of the term in December 2018.
Since then he has served as a senior status judge, accepting special judge appointments by the Supreme Court to hear cases in which other judges have recused themselves.
In addition to McPhail, 12 other special judges were appointed in late July and early August to temporarily assist other courts around the state. Appointments include eight special judges to assist the Hinds chancery, circuit and county courts.
Special judges also have been appointed to the 8th Circuit Court in Leake, Neshoba, Newton and Scott counties; the 16th Chancery Court in Jackson, George and Greene counties; the 21st Circuit Court in Holmes, Humphreys and Yazoo counties; and the Warren County Court and youth court.
The disruption caused by COVID-19 required numerous court case continuances since it was declared a national emergency on March 13. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 cases may have been affected.
The Mississippi Legislature has appropriated $2.5 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed in response to the economic fallout caused by COVID-19 in the United States – to assist the courts. Special judges will be paid with CARES Act funds, which will be available through Dec. 30.