No split for Al­covy Ju­di­cial Cir­cuit

Per­due likely to ap­prove a fifth judge in­stead

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Rachel Oswald

It now ap­pears likely that rather than split the Al­covy Ju­di­cial Cir­cuit, Gov. Sonny Per­due will ap­prove a fifth judge for the cir­cuit in­stead.

New­ton County Su­pe­rior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn said Tues­day he had re­ceived word from the gov­er­nor’s of­fice that the gov­er­nor has in­di­cated he would not be ap­prov­ing any cir­cuit splits this year.

Ozburn and Rep. Robert Mum­ford (R-Cony­ers) trav­eled to At­lanta on Fri­day to meet with Rep. Wen­dell Wil­lard (R-Sandy Springs), chair­man of the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee to dis­cuss which op­tion was likely to come to pass.

“I don’t know if it’s a po­lit­i­calde­ci­sion or­what,” Ozburn said. “We have given all the in­for­ma­tion we can that we think would jus­tify a cir­cuit split be­ing the most ef­fi­cient.”

Ozburn said he feels strongly the Al­covy Ju­di­cial Cir­cuit will be granted a fifth judge be­cause of its rank­ing at the top of a list, re­leased ear­lier this year by the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Of­fice of the Courts, on court cir­cuits in need of ad­di­tional judges.

“Know­ing that, it looks like the fifth judge­ship is what will be ap­proved for the cir­cuit,” Ozburn said.

Ozburn said he be­lieved three to four new judge­ships would be ap­proved by the gov­er­nor this year.

The cost of adding a fifth judge to the Al­covy Cir­cuit is es­ti­mated to be $600,000 an­nu­ally whereas the cost of split­ting the cir­cuit is es­ti­mated to be $640,000 an­nu­ally.

If the bill to add a fifth judge, House Bill 1254, passes, a list of pos­si­ble can­di­dates to fill the po­si­tion will be pre­pared by a ju­di­cial nom­i­nat­ing com­mit­tee. Ozburn said. From those nom­i­nated Gov.

Per­due will se­lect a fifth judge to serve an ap­pointed term from Jan. 1, 2009, to the next qual­i­fy­ing elec­tion in 2010 at which time the ap­pointed can­di­date would run for a full four-year term.

The fifth judge would serve on a dif­fer­ent elec­tion cy­cle than the Al­covy Cir­cuit’s cur­rent four Su­pe­rior Court judges who are all up for elec­tion this Novem­ber.

To qual­ify for the po­si­tion of fifth Al­covy Cir­cuit judge, nom­i­nees must re­side in the Al­covy Cir­cuit area of New­ton or Wal­ton County, be at least 30 years of age, be a cit­i­zen of Ge­or­gia for at least three years, have prac­ticed law for at least seven years and be li­censed to prac­tice law in the state.

Ozburn said he hoped the fifth judge’s pri­mary of­fice would be in New­ton County on ac­count of the county’s higher caseload.

Ac­cord­ing to Ozburn the av­er­age caseload for a judge in Ge­or­gia is 2,200. Right now the av­er­age caseload for an Al­covy Judge is 2,800. While a fifth judge would lower the caseload, Ozburn said by the time the new judge ar­rives in 2009, the cir­cuit’s caseload is ex­pected to have risen even more.

“We’ll be look­ing at some other mea­sures per­haps,” Ozburn said. “We may ex­am­ine a state court. There are a num­ber of is­sues that we’ll deal with in due time.”

PER­DUE

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