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Council Recommends Keeping Clarke and Oconee in Same Judicial Circuit

Western Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez.

The Judicial Council of Georgia on Friday unanimously and without discussion accepted the recommendation of its Workload Assessment Committee that no change be made to the boundaries of the Western Judicial Circuit, made up of Oconee and Clarke counties.

Chief Judge David T. Emerson of Douglas County, representing the Workload Assessment Committee, told the full Judicial Council that a change in the boundaries of the Western Judicial Circuit would not “improve the administration of justice” in the two counties.

The Workload Assessment Committee had reviewed a possible boundary change for the Western Judicial Circuit at the request of Marcus Wiedower and Houston Gaines, who represent Oconee County in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Oconee County Republicans voiced dissatisfaction with the boundaries of the circuit following the election of progressive Democrat Deborah Gonzalez as district attorney in a special election to fill that spot last autumn.

The districts Wiedower and Gaines represent include parts of Clarke County, but Wiedower and Gaines, both Republicans, have been elected without carrying the segments of their districts in Clarke County because of their strong support in Oconee County.

Traditionally, Democratic Clarke County dominates the two-county Western Judicial Circuit because it has three times as many residents. Republicans did not even field a candidate in the special election last year, which was technically nonpartisan but included two candidates who called themselves Democrats and one independent. The independent candidate, James Chafin, won the majority of heavily Republican Oconee County’s votes.

Chief Justice David Nahmias of the Georgia Supreme Court, presiding at the Judicial Council meeting on Friday, said that while the Judicial Council vote was unanimous, “it’s up to the legislature to determine how to act” on the recommendation.

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