Judge Jerry Gray and state solicitor Don Moore believe the Jackson County State Court system needs to move to full-time but county staff is recommending that it continue to operate as a part-time court.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners heard a recommendation from county manager Darrell Hampton Monday night that the court remain part-time. Gray and Moore also spoke and said the court needs to be full time. The BOC will vote on the issue when it meets at 6 p.m. Monday at the courthouse.
At the meeting this week, Hampton said he has reviewed the State Court operation and believes it should continue to operate as part-time.
“In reviewing case load information provided by the State Court, for the years 2005 through 2010, it appears that the need, or in this instance case load, has not increased to the extent that it would warrant a change in how this service is provided,” Hampton wrote in his recommendation to the BOC.“…The reasoning for this recommendation is the existing demand for service does not warrant a change. Further, approving this request would increase the expense associated with operating the State Court with no identified offsetting increase in fees or fines, thereby impacting revenues historically generated by State Court.”
Judge Gray said the only legal obligation is to hold one week of court each month. He said he has court more than this.
“You like the way I’ve done it because I’ve acted like a full time judge,” he said. “That is the reason you are not recommending this go to full-time. You are saying, ‘Judge Gray, you are a full-time judge anyway.’ Why would you want to change it.”
Judge Gray also presented information on State Court systems, including that the Jackson County State Court is the largest by way of population than any other part-time State Court in Georgia. Jackson County State Court also handles more civil cases than any other part-time State Court in Georgia. The judge also pointed out that the State Court system in Habersham County, which has a smaller population than Jackson County, was recently changed to full-time status.
“There is no county that has a part time State Court that has a greater population than what we have,” Judge Gray said. ‘Jackson County handles more civil cases than any other part-time State Court in the State of Georgia.
Judge Gray added that the civil cases coming through now are more complex than a part-time court can handle.
Moore and Gray also spoke on the 14 malpractice cases that will be heard in State Court in the next year.
“These cases will compromise this court’s part-time schedule,” Gray wrote in a letter to Hampton and BOC chairman Hunter Bicknell.
Commissioner Dwain Smith said that he supports moving to a full-time State Court.
“We need to get service minded instead of dollar minded,” he said. “We do need to be dollar minded but we also need to be service for the people. I don’t want us to be so far behind that we can’t catch up and we are headed that way.”
Commissioner Chas Hardy said there are have some discrepancies in the numbers the commissioners are being given and asked for this to be addressed.