Last year I made a motion to not fund an additional Juvenile Court Judge. My rational was that our county population was ~180k and we already had 2 Juvenile Court Judges while Forsyth County (same size) only has 1; Gwinnett County with a population of over 800k only has 3. This was rooted in the fact that when the county increased the number of State Court Judges from 2 to 3, the load actually decreased.
When you look at Hall County, we have an extensive court system:
Now, some of these judges are shared with Dawson County. Dawson County pays for 10% of the Superior Courts and 17% of one of the Juvenile Court judges. I have several issues with this arrangement: 1- the 10% ratio is an unfair balance, 2- the agreement only covers “the” juvenile court judge, and 3- the interface agreement is out of date and has not been updated.
First, when the 10% number was established it probably seemed fair. The last census had Hall County with a population of 179,640 residents whereas Dawson County had 22,330. That put Dawson County at 11% of the population. While that seems close, you have to look at the workload: Hall County has State Court judges, Dawson County does not. That means that any charge that would normally have gone to Hall County state court like DUI, Speeding, Simple Battery, etc. would be handled by Superior Court. Looking at the numbers above, Hall County has 3 state court judges. This would mean that when you remove the case load from the Superior Court, Dawson County is probably using close to 25% of the total case load. Can you say Hall County tax dollars being used in Dawson County?
My second issue is with “the” juvenile court judge. 17% of 1 would be 5.5% of three. However, when I asked last year if Dawson County would share the cost of the new judge, I was told that the judge would be 100% used in Hall County. I was disheartened when I saw that ALL THREE juvenile court judges are listed on the Dawson County website. What was even more disheartening is when I asked the County Commission to look into this misuse of Hall County Tax dollars, Chairman Mecum’s response was that I lacked “knowledge and experience of the court system in general and the juvenile courts specifically” and that I needed “to contact the Hall County Juvenile Court to obtain more factual information.” He is right in a sense, when I sent the email I thought that Dawson County kicked in 20% for two judges, not 16.67% of one.
Finally, the interface agreement was signed in 2000 for a term of three years. The IA allowed for Dawson County to renew for an additional 3 years with compensation “being subject to renegotiation.” An open records request, however, did not uncover an extension or renegotiation of the agreement.
So what do I propose? I don’t like the fact that Hall County tax payers are paying 100% of salary and benefits to a judge that is working in another county. Shouldn’t the Hall County taxpayer receive 100% of the benefit of our tax dollars? Why are we paying taxes on services used in another county? I think it is time to break up this little party that is going on with our Superior Court judges. I think that it is time to deport one to Dawson County and then have them pay for 100% of the service.