Newark, NJ- In court, a delayed ruling can leave a case to languish for months, sometimes years, which adds to the backlog experienced by many courts across New Jersey and the U.S. overall. Some delays are just part of the adjudication process, but some judges put off ruling for excessive periods and keep cases tied up for years. A federal district court judge in Mississippi was reprimanded recently for refusing to rule in two cases; one had been pending for several years.
On September 29th, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals removed a district judge U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate from a class-action lawsuit involving an energy company, Entergy. The suit against Entergy was filed several years ago by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, and alleged that the utility company manipulated sales and rates to increase profits. Motions were filed in the Entergy case, but Judge Wingate repeatedly delayed ruling on those motions, tying the case up for several years.
Before the 5th Circuit removed Judge Wingate from the Entergy case, AG Hood asked the appeals court for a writ of mandamus which is a special type of ruling that is only granted in exceptional circumstances. Writs of mandamus are issued before a case goes through the full judicial process or before it is concluded and only granted on rare occasions. A mandamus petition forces a judge or the court to fulfill their duties and issue rulings promptly, or have the case reassigned.
The 5th Circuit Court ordered Judge Wingate to turn the Entergy case over the Southern District of Mississippi’s chief judge for reassignment, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
A month before granting a writ of mandamus, the 5th Circuit removed Judge Wingate from another case that a Texas-based energy company that misleading claims about their ability to turn biomass into the oil to get a state loan, the ABA Journal. Judge Wingate asked to keep the case, asking for three days to issue a ruling, but his request was denied, and the case was transferred, according to the ABA Journal.
The two cases discussed above were not the only cases held up because Judge Wingate delayed ruling on motions file; the Clarion-Ledger reported that a search of United Courts statistics from 2015 showed that Judge Wingate had 105 cases with rulings pending more than six months.
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution gives individuals the right to a speedy trial whether their case is in civil court or criminal court. Delays in court proceedings, even if only a year or two, have major impacts on the parties to the proceedings and courts should do as much as they can to prevent such burdensome and unreasonable delays.
As I said before, some delays are normal and can be expected in a court proceeding, but this Mississippi district court judge’s negligence in ruling caused long-standing and necessary delays. For an individual, delays are costly, time-consuming and unfair. In criminal cases, delayed rulings can leave a defendant under a cloud of uncertainty about their future leaving them unable to plan. In criminal proceedings, your rights are paramount, and I will make certain they haven’t been violated.
If you are facing criminal charges in Elizabeth, Jersey City, Newark or any other area of New Jersey, call my office and set up a consultation. You can reach me by calling 973-453-2009. I will explain your charges and your rights and we’ll discuss a defense strategy.