CLCT was proud to support the Gulfport, Mississippi, Municipal Court as an on-going pro bono public service project. The city lost its courthouse in Hurricane Katrina forcing it to relocate first to trailers and then to a former elementary school. After the disaster, the City of Gulfport’s Administrator visited William & Mary and requested CLCT’s help.
The Gulfport Municipal Court is a court of first instance with the largest docket of any court in Mississippi. Its jurisdiction includes traffic, minor criminal offenses, domestic violence and environmental matters.
The new Robert J. Curry Public Safety Center opened in February 2011 with the Municipal Complex housing the Police Department and the Municipal Court. The facilities, although under the same roof, have separate entrances allowing for convenient proximity but a functional separation. The court’s basic technological objective was to integrate and utilize the records management system with the new audio visual equipment in the courtroom. Achieving this in the Arraignment Courtroom was complicated because it was originally designed to serve as Council Chambers and to be used by the community.
To convert the once council chambers, standard courtroom fixtures had to be added and equipped with the necessary technology. The unique aspect of the change was converting the long council table designed to accommodate individuals into a Judge’s bench. It was successfully altered to include a microphone connected to the sound re-enforcement system and electronic recording system, a monitor to display presented evidence, and controls for the electronic systems in the room. The bench also includes a judge’s computer with a keyboard, mouse and monitor, which connects to the room display system and allows the judge to show calendar or any other data, such as a defendant’s file, to the rest of the courtroom monitors. The clerk’s desks are located to the left and right of the judge on raised dais originally designed to accommodate council members during meetings.
CLCT has helped design the courthouse portion of the new Curry Public Safety Center. Ultimately, CLCT hopes that the Gulfport Municipal Court will serve as a model for the nation’s courts of first instance. In addition, as part of its ongoing pro bono support, CLCT provides other forms of assistance such as analyzing the court’s business process and reviewing and revising defendant waiver forms. CLCT is now working on improving the court’s appearance rate and other projects.