0

County could get new judge for state court

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners will discuss adding a state court judge to help deal with a growing case load, and officials from MARTA today will make suggestions to the board on how to expand and improve the C-TRAN bus system.

The board will consider a resolution today, during its regular business meeting at 7 p.m., requesting the Georgia General Assembly approve legislation to create an additional judgeship for the Clayton County State Court. The court currently has four judges: Chief Judge Harold G. Benefield; Judge Linda S. Cowen; Judge John C. Carbo; and Judge Morris E. Braswell.

Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosely said that in addition to adjudicating 25,000 to 35,000 traffic violations, the state court saw approximately 17,000 new criminal cases last year. She believes additional judges are needed to handle the volume.

"It's safe to say that it's been at least a decade since they got their last [state] court judge," said Mosely. "This office filed approximately 17,000 accusations. Between four judges, that's 4,000 cases for each judge. That is not even including the tickets they have to handle. Most of the cases in 2009, the incident date is from late spring or last summer. There is just that much of a backlog in this office."

Mosely said the state court is presently handling a criminal case load similar to Fulton County's, which has 11 judges. Henry County State Court, which has the same number of judges as Clayton County, had 4,560 new criminal cases in 2008, according to Scott Rowan, chief deputy clerk of Henry County State Court.

"If we're not running neck and neck with them [Fulton County], then we're not far behind them," said Mosely. "We have just as many judges as Henry County does, and they have about a fourth of the case load. This is not a want, but a need ... we need the fifth judge."

In July, Beverly Scott, general manager and CEO of MARTA, spoke to the Clayton County Board of Commissioners about ways to improve the service of C-TRAN, which MARTA operates. Some of those suggestions included improving its bus facility, adding more buses to the fleet to improve wait times and making improvements to the 503 and 504 routes, which service the Mt. Zion Road and Ga. Highway 85/Flint River Road corridors, respectively.

On Tuesday, Dwight Ferrell, deputy general manager of MARTA, will continue the conversation, presenting options to the board during its regular business meeting. While Ferrell declined to discuss specific options before presenting them to the board, he said MARTA will implore the board to deal with overcrowding and efficiency issues.

"We would like to address the issue of overcrowding on any of the routes that C-TRAN operates," said Ferrell. "Obviously, we're going to require additional equipment. Some of those efficiencies only deal with how we delegate vehicles. We have several options out there. Whatever is done is the commissioners' decision."

The commission will meet at the Clayton County Administration Building, 112 Smith St., Jonesboro.