Cox emailed Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee and the other commissioners plus County Manager David Hankerson last week with his idea.
“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.
The county would eliminate the need for an administrative assistant, two assistant solicitors and various bailiffs and deputy sheriffs by leaving the job unfilled, he said.
He also pointed out that State Court judges routinely volunteer to hear cases on a “fill-in” basis on the Superior Court bench, “an indication that they don’t have enough work,” Cox added.
Cobb has 12 State Court judges. Leonard serves on the Division 2 State Court bench, commonly referred to as “traffic court.” The Division 2 caseload has dropped sharply in recent years, from almost 94,000 cases in 2010 to barely 65,000 last year and less than 59,000 through Oct. 31 of this year.
State Court Chief Judge Toby Prodgers responds that the number of tickets will likely go up next year due to the assignment of more Georgia State Patrol troopers to Cobb next year. He also noted that some Division 2 judges perform a vital role by volunteering to hear cases on the Superior Court bench.
But it’s not as if Superior Court proceedings would suddenly come to a grinding halt if there were one fewer State Court judge. Such cases are also heard at times by the Superior Court’s Senior Judges, by Cobb Juvenile Court judges and by Cox himself.
Chairman Lee is taking a “hands off” approach to the controversy for now, correctly noting that judgeships are created by the Legislature and that the appointment in question is up to the governor. The downside for the governor would be the loss of a judgeship he could fill. But Republican Deal has been attentive to Republican-rich Cobb and might be so again were Lee and the Republican-dominated Cobb legislative delegation to decide the judgeship is not needed.
Moreover, a legislative source told Around Town on Friday that the judgeship is something the delegation plans to look at.
With the county government and both local school systems steadily being forced to downsize operations in recent years for budget reasons, you can expect there will be pressure on State Court to follow suit.
FORMER Georgia Supreme Court Justice Conley Ingram of Marietta was the “consensus” first choice to serve as mediator of the high-profile property dispute between Roswell Street Baptist Church and the City of Marietta, but politely declined on Friday.
Ingram, who now has Senior Judge status in Cobb Superior Court, was nominated for the job by Roswell Street Baptist and quickly assented to by the city, according to City Attorney Doug Haynie. He and church attorney Fred Bentley Jr. went through five other names on Friday morning after learning of Ingram’s decision and may sort through multiple others before picking a “finalist.”
The church and city are far apart in a long-running negotiation over how much to compensate the church for the loss of parking spaces needed to widen Roswell Street to four lanes from two. Church members packed the council chambers at Wednesday’s council meeting to show support for their position. The two sides ultimately agreed to have Haynie and Bentley pick a mediator within 10 days.
It’s hoped that whoever is chosen, the two sides can finally reach agreement. The church is one of the city’s best “citizens” on that side of town, but it’s also clear that congested Roswell Street is overdue for widening.
READERS WILL RECALL that one of the biggest controversies of Dr. John Crooks’ tenure on the Cobb school board came when he persuaded the board to sneak a vote on a controversial cell tower at East Valley Elementary School onto its July 2009 meeting agenda at the last minute. His stated reason for doing so was to avoid “a circus” that would ensue if the opponents of the tower knew of the pending vote and could pack the meeting chamber.
Crooks is an assistant pastor at Roswell Street Baptist and was one of those working to help pack Wednesday’s council meeting in a show of force — or “circus,” you might say — against the city.
“Now it looks like Rev. Crooks has run off and joined the circus,” said a wag
OPINION AMONG LOCAL POLITICOS was split late this week on whether the failure of U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-east Cobb) to be elected House Republican Conference Chairman — his party’s No. 4 Leadership post in the House — helps or hurts his ability to mount an election challenge against U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Moultrie) in 2014. Some of those contacted by Around Town said that had he won, rather than Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, the higher-profile role it provides would have enhanced his ability to take on the entrenched Chambliss. Others said that losing the leadership post gives Price even more incentive to run against Chambliss, who many hard-right conservatives see as soft on immigration and budget issues. … Another Republican congressman said to be looking at a run against Chambliss is Paul Broun of Athens, who insiders predict could officially be in the race by sometime this winter.
GEORGIA House Speaker David Ralston will be the keynote speaker at the Nov. 28 breakfast of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s Marietta Chapter. The group also will present its Marietta Citizen of the Year Award that day at the Mansour Center. ... State Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb) was elected Thursday as vice chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus. … State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) was elected treasurer for the Georgia House Democratic Caucus on Monday.
IS LONGTIME Cobb school board attorney Glenn Brock thinking of breaking off from the Brock Clay firm in Marietta he co-founded with Chuck Clay and taking his education law practice to another Atlanta-area firm? That’s what a well-placed source tells Around Town.
THE MARIETTA ROTARY CLUB has chosen a fifth-generation Marietta Rotarian as its president-elect. Dawn McEachern, director of community engagement for the WellStar Foundation, is the great-great-granddaughter of Marietta Rotary founding member John W. Hancock, who was the club’s first president back in 1919.
Her maternal great grandfather, Ralph James Hancock, was Marietta Rotary president in 1925. Her great uncle, Jigger Hancock, and grandfather, W.H. Dunaway, were presidents of Marietta Rotary. Her father, former Marietta Mayor Bill Dunaway, has been a Marietta Rotarian since 1964.
ALL’S FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR. During the Cobb County School Board’s discussion Wednesday about what legislative priorities they’ll take to the Cobb legislative delegation at their joint meeting Nov. 26, they decided 5-1 that rather than present a priorities list that they would just ask for one thing: a “commitment” from state lawmakers not to cut their budget. Last year the Cobb School District saw its state funding budget slashed by $72 million.
The only board member on Wednesday who opposed the recommendation was Vice Chair David Morgan, also known as the husband of Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell).
Morgan kept trying to encourage the group to take more than one request, prompting fellow board member Lynnda Eagle to whisper to him, “She’s still going to love you,” obviously referencing Rep. Morgan.
Morgan doesn’t seem to be the only one who’s a little worried about going before state legislators with only one request, though. Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa joked, “Life insurance, here I come,” adding that legislators might shoot him if he walks in with only one priority, much less a “commitment” instead.