Friday, January 8, 2010

Citizens Voice Opposition to Fulton Judicial System Cuts

  Jan. 6, 2010 -- Hundreds of concerned Fulton County residents who braved freezing temperatures packed this week's Fulton Commission meeting to show support for full funding of the county's judicial system.
  Concerned residents told commissioners that cutting any part of the system which includes courts, prosecutors, public defenders, court clerks and the county sheriff  would cripple an already overburdened system.
  Concern over proposed budget cuts in the cash-strapped county has been growing since mid-November when county managers notified judicial leaders that they might loose 24 percent of their budgets.
  Fulton's Chief Judge and District Attorney said that such massive cuts would mean they would have to make drastic staff cuts leaving their offices unable to process the more than 30,000 cases filed in Fulton Superior Court each year.
  Chief Judge Doris L. Downs, speaking for members of the judicial system, said with that level of reduction "the results would be disastrous. [and] ... would also, in our opinion, raise serious questions regarding public safety."
  In December commissioners approved a tentative budget that would reduce cuts to the judicial system to some 10 percent. But even that level of reduced spending on justice would erode the courts ability to maintain cost-saving programs that now supervise some 1700 defendants in Drug and Mental Health courts and through pretrial release supervision, forcing more defendants back into the already overflowing county jail.
  Those who spoke Wednesday, including Chief Judge Downs, Chief Judge-elect Cynthia Wright and others who are involved in providing services to the judicial system, said that there are better ways to balance the budget that to slow processing of criminal cases that will only add to jail overcrowding and more than offset any savings.
  County officials and judicial leaders continue to meet and share ideas for reducing costs without endangering the public and reducing access to justice for families, children and Fulton businesses. One idea presented to county leaders is a full-court press to process criminal cases that judicial leaders say could cut the jail population in half by July. That would greatly reduce expenses for housing, feeding, and providing medical care for inmates in the jail which now must rent space in other county jails because it is overflowing.
  Fulton County’s judicial system is the state’s largest and busiest. It is also the place where all lawsuits brought against any state government function are decided, so any reduction in its capacity to function will have statewide consequences.
  A final vote on the 2010 Fulton County budget will be held Jan. 20 at 10 a.m. in the Fulton Commission Assembly Hall, 141 Pryor St., S.W., Atlanta, GA 30303.
  Anyone interested in voicing support for the judicial system budget who cannot attend the Jan. 20 meeting may sign an electronic petition at:

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