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Circuit closer to adding judge
Funding, other challenges remain
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Forsyth County News

Forsyth County is one step closer to receiving a third Superior Court judge.

The Judicial Council of Georgia has placed the Bell-Forsyth Circuit at the top of a list it will send the governor and General Assembly for consideration in the 2012 session.

Forsyth County Chief Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley said the first-place ranking is critical to getting a third judge.

The next hurdle will be getting the General Assembly to approve funding for the position.

"We’ve got a lot of work to do in trying to persuade the senators and representatives after the first of the year to put some money in the budget for a new Superior Court judgeship," Bagley said. "And of course us being at the top of the list, we should be the recipient of that."

David L. Dickinson is the county’s other Superior Court judge.

Even if the funding is approved, however, there is little to no room in the county courthouse for a new judge.

Bagley said the county commission would have to find space to accommodate a third judge, if granted, who would need chambers and a courtroom.

A room in the courthouse that has been converted for use as an additional courtroom is sufficient for civil cases. However, it lacks the security measures needed for holding criminal court proceedings.

In addition, there is no space in the courthouse for a judge’s office or other personnel.

He said the county could have a new Superior Court judge as early as January 2013.

Dawn Childress, Bell-Forsyth Circuit Court administrator, said the county has qualified for a third judge for about three years.

"The past two years the judicial council, due to budget constraints with the legislature, has not even put forward any recommendations," Childress said.

"Our numbers are such that we actually qualify for 3.5 judges and the cutoff for a four-judge circuit is around 3.7. So we almost qualify for four judges."

Childress said state funding may be available this year to pay for an additional judge and staff, which would include an additional attorney in the district attorney’s office and judicial assistant.

According to information provided by the judicial council, the General Assembly creates new judgeships and the bill authorizing a new position includes the effective date, initial term and stipulates whether the judge is to be elected or appointed.