FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Forrest and Perry County Circuit Court Judge Bob Helfrich will have another judge to split the caseload come November.
The 12th judicial district added a second seat after House Bill 703 was signed by Governor Phil Bryant this week. State Representative Toby Barker (R- Dist. 102) said it was a bill that had been in the works for 12 years.
"We've known the caseload for this district was higher than most," Barker explained. "It was time for the 12th district to get a second judgeship, and we're glad to be able to make that happen this year."
Judge Helfrich has the fourth largest caseload in the state, according to the Administrative Office of Courts, and he is the lone judge in the 12th district. There are only four other districts of the 22 that have one judge.
According to that data, Helfrich had 1,264 cases in 2014. Of those cases, 267 were civil and 997 were criminal.
"Based on the numbers, we need it," Helfrich said of the new seat. "It's going to free up some time to do some other things in the criminal justice system, make other modifications that will do nothing but improve the system and improve the well being of the individuals that come before the court."
The other districts with one judge- 13, 18, 21 and 22- had anywhere from 425 to 991 cases in 2014. The average caseload per judge was 932.92.
The election for the second seat in the 12th district will be in November, and the qualifying period for candidates ends June 1. It is a non-partisan election with a three-year term, and candidates qualify through the Secretary of State's office.