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With major case backlog, Hinds Co. on tap to receive two more assistant district attorneys

Updated: Mar. 29, 2021 at 12:30 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Help is on the way for the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office.

The Mississippi Legislature is including an additional $150,000 in its annual appropriations bill to fund two new assistant district attorney positions.

The positions will help the county, as it deals with a backlog of more than 2,500 cases.

“We’re pleased the DA will get help from the state to do the good work that is he is doing,” District 26. Sen. John Horhn says.

Mississippi state Sen. John Horhn is shaken up but thankful for his life after he was robbed at...
Mississippi state Sen. John Horhn is shaken up but thankful for his life after he was robbed at gunpoint.

Funds will be made available on July 1. It will up to District Attorney Jody Owens to make the hires from there.

The news comes weeks after WLBT reported that the office had a docket of more than 2,500 cases, including several high-profile murder cases that had been languishing in the court system.

It also comes after S.B. 2634, a stand-alone bill that would have authorized the two positions, died in a Senate committee.

Had that bill passed, the county would have received an annual allocation to fund the additional two positions.

However, the money included in this session’s appropriations package is one-time money, meaning the legislature will have to approve funding for the ADAs again next year, Horhn said.

Said Horhn, “We hope to make it permanent.”

The decision essentially brings the Seventh Circuit District up to 2014 funding levels.

It also will bring the district attorney’s office more in line with national standards, which recommend having one assistant for every 10,000 people in a jurisdiction.

Right now, Hinds County has one ADA per every 19,320 people. The additional two will mean one ADA for every 16,560 individuals.

During a special session in 2014, the legislature approved increasing the number of ADAs in several districts across the state. However, Hinds County was not granted any additional staffers.

State statute allows Hinds County to have up to 11 state-funded legal assistants or ADAs.

The law does not limit the number of ADAs a district may have but mandates any hires beyond the number approved by the state be paid for at the county’s expense.

Right now, the county funds one ADA position in the Seventh District, bringing the total number of assistants in the county to 12.

Members of the Jackson legislative delegation have attempted to increase funding levels every year since 2014, but all measures, including the 2021 bill, died in committees.

“We knew the bill was going to die, so we had hopes of getting it put in the larger appropriations bill,” Horhn said.

Lawmakers will vote to approve appropriations bills Monday or Tuesday.

In February, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann announced that the state would fund three additional judges in the county to help address its case backlog. The judges will be paid for with CARES Act monies and will remain in place at least through December.

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