Chief Magistrate Cox urges county to save money by eliminating a State Court seat
by Kim Isaza
November 16, 2012 01:35 AM | 8849 views | 18 18 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb State Judge Court Division II Judge Jason Fincher discusses a traffic case Thursday with a defendant and his attorney. <br>Staff/Laura Moon
Cobb State Judge Court Division II Judge Jason Fincher discusses a traffic case Thursday with a defendant and his attorney.
Staff/Laura Moon
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Cobb Chief Magistrate Frank Cox
Cobb Chief Magistrate Frank Cox
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Judge Toby Prodgers
Judge Toby Prodgers
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MARIETTA — Chairman Tim Lee says he is staying out of a cost controversy brewing between judges in Cobb’s court system.

Chief Magistrate Frank Cox has suggested to Lee that the county could save half a million dollars a year by eliminating the soon-to-be-vacant judgeship in Cobb State Court — though Toby Prodgers, state court’s chief judge, is balking at the suggestion there’s not enough work to warrant the additional seat.

Cox wants Lee to ask Gov. Nathan Deal to hold off on replacing State Court Judge Rob Leonard while the county reviews its finances and caseloads to see if the position is indeed still warranted.

Lee said in a statement that he has a lot of respect for both Cox and Prodgers and he “appreciates their perspectives on the issue.”

“Since judgeships are created by the state legislature and appointments are made by the Governor, I am going to rely on their judgment,” Lee said.

On Nov. 7, Deal appointed Leonard to the Cobb Superior Court bench to succeed Judge George Kreeger, who retired.

Leonard currently hears cases in State Court’s Division 2, commonly known as traffic court, and is scheduled to be sworn in to the Superior Court seat on Nov. 26 at the state capital.

The day after Leonard’s appointment, Cox sent an email to Chairman Lee and the four district commissioners as well as County Manager David Hankerson.

“It is common knowledge in the defense bar that the traffic court judges do not have sufficient business to keep them productive for 5 days a week, most days they work half days 2-3 days a week,” Cox wrote. “You now have a unique & rare opportunity to save the county almost one-half million dollars annually by asking the governor to not fill his position & then asking the local delegation to abolish the position in the upcoming session. … By eliminating this position you eliminate the need of an admin assistant & 2 assistant solicitors in the solicitor’s office.

“You also reduce the need for bailiffs & sheriff deputies in the courtroom. The need for computers, copy machines, phones for that office also are eliminated,” Cox wrote. Some State Court judges routinely volunteer to sit on the Superior Court bench, an indication that they don’t have enough work,” Cox said.

Cobb State Court has 12 judges and an overall annual budget of $6.5 million. The caseload in the traffic-court division has in fact receded in recent years, from nearly 94,000 cases in 2010, to just over 65,000 in 2011, and fewer than 59,000 through Oct. 31 of this year.

State Court has 67 full-time employees, including the judges, and 56 part-time staff. Division 2 judges earn $134,454 annually, all of which comes from county funds.

State Court Chief Judge Prodgers said he learned of Cox’s comments on Monday and immediately sent his own letter to Chairman Lee, insisting the judgeship is “critical.” Although he doesn’t dispute that traffic-court caseloads have declined, he believes that is only temporary.

For one, the Georgia State Patrol is adding 30 new officers to enforce traffic in Cobb, which he expects to result in more cases by early next year. Another factor likely to result in more cases is the increased use of stop-arm cameras on Cobb school buses, he said.

Prodgers also said some Division 2 judges have filled in on Superior Court because they consider those cases of higher priority.

“It’s extremely commendable that they’ve taken the initiative to assist them with their caseloads,” he said.

Also, “Judge Cox has never even communicated with us about any of these things,” Prodgers said. “We’re doing our best to be responsible and plan for these things.”

Cox said he would be “pleasantly surprised” if county leaders followed up on his suggestion. None of the commissioners or Hankerson had even responded to his email, he said.

“I’m not criticizing any individual, just toward the fact that we have more personnel allocated to that court than we need,” Cox said. “Obviously you’ll get total resistance from anybody over there, who will bristle at the thought that they don’t have enough work. … But this is the situation: When you have people on the payroll that are unnecessary, then everybody suffers because we don’t have enough money to have pay raises.”

The Judicial Nominating Commission will likely review applications for the state court seat and recommend a short list of candidates to the governor.
Comments
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oh my
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November 17, 2012
Cox needs to mind his own business. Yes he has an ax to grind with State Court because his Court Administrator went over their along with one of his secretaries, course from what i hear that was really no loss to magistrate i hear the personnel were actually happy she was gone. I also hear Cox has a reputation of demeaning his employees and anyone else in the court room not exactly very professional!!!
VFP42
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November 16, 2012
Cox sounds like he is on board with my idea to cut another State Court judge, but he raises a great point: Superior Court. We could surely do without a judge and staff there too! The two judge positions with all their "support" staff (primarily for keeping the judge's lap warm, one presumes) being cut would save us a million a year. That might buy a little bit of one of these medians going up everywhere.

Cut a State Court AND a Superior Court judge! Cox seems to have some spare time available. Cut Golick from State and Cox from Superior!

It's time for Golick and Cox to go down!
CobbSarena
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November 16, 2012
I hear there is Judge retiring in Magistrate Court at the end of the year. Maybe we shouldn't fill that position either? Or why don't we all just concentrate on our own workload rather than stepping on someone else's toes across the street. The traffic court is the moneybags for the county, not something to trim when there is no tax revenue coming in.
Julie Smart
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November 17, 2012
Ditto........

TheInsideBaseball
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November 16, 2012
Cox has been seen regularly dining with a disgruntled and recently fired State Court employee. Cox himself has sat in Superior Court more than any State Court Judge, that must mean he has too much time on his hands. Cox also has an ongoing feud with the Clerk of State Court. Cox isn't trying to save anybody money, he's grinding an ax. If ever you see Judge Prodgers on one side of an issue and Judge Cox on the other, anyone that knows these two men, knows to line up behind Prodgers.
Julie Smart
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November 16, 2012
Cox has really got the kahunas to step up and make that remark....Funny all this has come out after his court administrator went to work as the director of state court and the superior court appointment. I was actually shocked, and thought another female Div. I judge would be it....There has always been that issue out there about the merging of the courts....Only at the courthouse.
Balddude
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November 16, 2012
Who is the wrinkly bald dude with the big head?
GreenWithEnvy?
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November 21, 2012
Are you that jealous Cindy Yeager?
OMYGOODNESS
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November 16, 2012
ANYONE WHO HAS EVER BEEN IN COX'S COURT KNOWS HE IS NEVER IN TIME! HE MAY MAKE IT TO THE BENCH AT 10:30 FOR A 9:00 CALENDER. HE IS RUDE AND DISRESPECTFUL TO THE DEFENSE BAR THAT DOES NOT CONTRIBUTE HEAVILY YO HIS CAMPAIGN AND HE IS VERY RUDE TO HIS COURT STAFF. SOMEONE SHOULD AUDIT THE AMOUNT OF TIME THAT HE STAYS ON THE BENCH! AN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER WOULD HAVE A FIELD DAY IF THEY FOLLOWED HALF OF THE POLITICIANS IN THIS COUNTY.

Investigate Cobb!
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November 16, 2012
Reporters don't investigate all the dirt in Cobb County, only Fulton County. There is much more dirt in Cobb County. Thank goodness the FBI is investigating something.
cox sux
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November 16, 2012
How many Magistrate court judges are there again? And how many does it take to hear about cases with too many cars parked in the driveway or if a dog was off its leash? Certainly there is some fat to trim in magistrate court as well but you don't see Cox offering up any of his colleagues or even offering to reduce his own inflated salary. Seems like all he cares about is getting a raise...
Watcher...
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November 16, 2012
Frank Cox for Cobb Commission Chairman!
Church Streeter
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November 16, 2012
Something tells me Cox has an ax to grind with someone in State Court. His letter was sent out to the MDJ the day after Leonard's appointment? Why not address Tim Lee and the commission directly? Seems like a cowardly move to me.

The notion that you should reduce traffic court staff whenever caseload decreases is shortsighted. I believe the traffic court is one of the highest revenue producing divisions in Cobb County. Diminishing their capabilities would impact their effectiveness and, furthermore, cause substantial issues should caseload ever rise.

Unless you can predict the future, Cox, I suggest you stick to signing warrants and setting bail.
HFH
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November 16, 2012
The elite, or would-be elite, don't like it when the economy catches up with them. They didn't, and don't, give a damn when millions pour into this country to bring down wages and destroy jobs and the economy for the working class. It will have a leveling effect throughout.
Mr. Scott
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November 16, 2012
It seems that the mathematics are questionable to me. At least four folks in one court should have their positions eliminated - meaning they should lose their jobs - so that there would be more money for raises in another court? I think judges would take issue with a defense lawyer who was quoted as saying that something is 'common knowledge among judges.' If this was their argument, they'd probably make it.
shazaam!
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November 16, 2012
Is someone actually suggesting that we might save some money? It just can't be. I think I may have to go lie down.

Tax Payer
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November 16, 2012
So Cobb County Government has been given the opportunity to save the County money, but Tim Lee, the Board of Commissioners,or Mr. Hankerson don't have the nerve to step up and say that is a great idea for the County. What is wrong with you people.
Lawyer's View
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November 16, 2012
Cox's idea is great. Having practiced in the Cobb judicial system for decades, I think they can eliminate at least two State Court Divison II positions. Those judges don't have enough work to earn those exhorbitant salaries and never have, even at the case receipt heights. Cobb lawmakers(?) are always talking about raising fees, etc. on taxpayers. We don't want to keep giving them our hard-earned money for them to squander. This is a reasonable way for Cobb Commissioners to show that they're actually trying to use our money wisely. Thank you, Frank. And Jason is aging quickly in this job, isn't he?
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