Roving judges deny claims that ‘the justice system is broken’

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Mobile County Circuit Court judges discussed the recent increase in gun violence in Mobile and dispelled comments from city officials about a broken court system.

Mobile County Judge Michael A. Youngpeter addressed the city of Mobile March 31 with support from other judges and court officials.

Youngpeter did not address Stimpson directly, but referred to “certain officials” who had made comments about the criminal justice system contributing to violent crime in Mobile. Mayor Sandy Stimpson said at a March 21 press conference that “the criminal justice system is broken.”

Stimpson went on to say that a broken justice system had contributed to the rise in violence in the city.

Responding to Stimpon’s claims

Youngpeter denied the claims and called them “offensive” and “false”.

“Such an unprecedented unwarranted and unacceptable attack undermines the courts’ ability to do their jobs in the future,” Youngpeter said.

Regarding the lack of speedy trials, Youngpeter said that once a case is forwarded to the grand jury, the case is then processed by the district attorney’s office.

“The courts have no control over what issues are presented or when those issues are presented,” Youngpeter said.

Youngpeter cited Alabama law as the reason people charged with violent crimes are given bail.

“Except for those charged with capital murder and those already on probation, parole, or bail for another crime, each defendant charged with a crime must receive bond.”

COVID-19 has also been cited as a source of backlogs for criminal cases. Youngpeter dispelled misinformation about court closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The courts never closed, not for a single day,” Youngpeter said. Jury trials were suspended during the peak of the pandemic, but that was common for all major circuits, not just Mobile, according to Youngpeter.

“We’ve held more jury trials and disposed of any other indictments than any other circuit in the state,” Youngpeter said.

Factors Influencing the Increase in Violent Crime

“Judges can’t be blamed for the lack of mobile police officers,” said Youngpeter, who cited that the department’s staff had shrunk by 100 positions.

Youngpeter said staffing, lack of witnesses to appear in court and increased sale of illegal drugs and firearms are contributing to increased crime, especially among young residents of Mobile.

“The system works better with open communication rather than trying to assign blame,” Youngpeter said.