City DopeFeaturedNews

Committee Rejects Splitting Athens Judicial Circuit

District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez.

The Judicial Workload Assessment Committee of the Judicial Council of Georgia voted on Friday to recommend to the full council that Oconee County not be allowed to split from Clarke County in the Western Judicial Circuit.

The Workload Assessment Committee was responding to a Feb. 12 request from Marcus Wiedower and Houston Gaines, who represent both Oconee County and Clarke County in the Georgia House of Representatives. The pair were requesting that the council do what is known as a “circuit boundary study” to determine if the current configuration of the circuit could be changed.

Staff of the Judicial Council told the Workload Assessment Committee that Oconee County has too low of a caseload to be placed alone in a judicial circuit. As a consequence, it considered five alternatives, in which the two counties were merged into other judicial circuits.

The only “viable scenario,” according to the report, was a merger of the Western Circuit and the Alcovy Circuit. The Alcovy Judicial Circuit is made up of Newton and Walton counties. The Workload Assessment Committee did not recommend that merger.

The full Judicial Council will hear the recommendation of the Judicial Workload Committee at its Aug. 13 meeting in Columbus.

Wiedower and Gaines gave no explanation for their request in the two-sentence letter they sent to the Judicial Council in early February.

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell at a town hall meeting last month tied the request by Wiedower and Gaines to the election of Deborah Gonzalez as District Attorney last November.

Jeff Hood had stepped to the microphone at that meeting and noted that Columbia County has been split off from the Augusta Judicial Circuit to create a single-county Circuit.

“Since Deborah Gonzalez was elected here last year there’s been talk—because of philosophy so different between Clarke and Oconee—that maybe the same thing should be, should happen here,” Hood said.

“I guess I’ll say there was a lot of comments or questions about how to split a judicial district,” Daniell said. “There’s processes you go through—through the state legislature.”

For more, visit Oconee County Observations.