Jackson County Court System Struggling To Get Back Online

More trailers are moving in at the Jackson County fairgrounds. The double wides are the new circuit court buildings.

"That'll help us tremendously," District Attorney Tony Lawrence says.

Katrina swamped the Jackson County Courthouse on August 29th. District Attorney Tony Lawrence says water flooded the first floor and water indirectly flooded the second.

"See the sprinkler system up here is what did the damage here," Lawrence says.

Since then, cases have backed up because of limited resources, lost time, and lost records.

"A lot of defense lawyers lost their files, that means we have to go reproduce discovery," Lawrence says.

"This is what's left of a folder that a file was in," defense attorney George Shaddock says as he opens a file cabinet.

Katrina's surge poured into Shaddock's Watts street office. He had about 200 open cases on August 29th.

"We were able to recover about 50 or 60 files out of here. And that's it," Shaddock says.

As if ruined files and damaged buildings weren't enough, D.A. Tony Lawrence says the Jackson County Court System is also dealing with another Katrina related problem- more new cases.

"We've probably had about a 25-percent increase in our case load because of hurricane related type cases. Looting, hurricane assistance fraud and things like that."

Before the new cases come to court, the D.A. says they want to make sure they get the old cases before a judge as soon as possible.

"There's a lot of cases out there that need to be resolved, but we felt like if we could pick the violent cases first, we'll try to target those and resolve them."

Lawrence understands speedy trials can only happen if everything's running smoothly again.

"It's going to take two years before we are caught up and back to normal,".Lawrence says.