Coweta Judicial Circuit may approve seventh judge

by Sarah Fay Campbell

The local Judicial Circuit is preparing for the approval of a seventh judge.

A bill that would create the judgeship is on the calendar for Monday’s session of the Georgia General Assembly. Monday is Crossover Day, the last day a House Bill can pass out of the House or a Senate Bill can pass out of the Senate, thus allowing the bill a chance to receive final approval during the legislative session.

House Bill 742 adds a seventh judge for the five-county Coweta Judicial Circuit. The bill would also create a new judgeship in the Waycross Judicial Circuit.

Funding for the new post is included in the current version of the Fiscal Year 2015 budget. The budget has been approved by the House but has not yet been approved by the Senate.

The Coweta circuit, which includes Coweta, Carroll, Heard, Troup and Meriwether counties, is one of the busiest in the state.

“The year before last we were number one,” said Chief Judge Quillian Baldwin. “We had the highest caseload of any circuit in the state, higher even, than Atlanta.”

The caseload varies from year to year, but the Coweta circuit is always one of the highest in the state.

“Based on numbers, we were entitled to request another judge two years ago,” Baldwin said.

At that time, then-chief Judge Allen Keeble did not believe the judgeship was needed. “This year we thought it best to request another judge,” Baldwin said.

Keeble retired at the end of 2012, and long-time Chief Judge William F. Lee retired earlier in 2012 amid allegations of judicial misconduct.

With two new judges, Emory Palmer, who was elected to replace Keeble, and Bill Hamrick, who was appointed to replace Lee, it was decided it was time to redesign the way cases were being assigned, according to Baldwin.

“And that is not an easy thing to do, when you’ve been doing it the same way for years.”

“The new case assignment system was very complicated and we thought adding another judge would complicate it even more,” Baldwin said.

Now, however, the new system of assignment has been employed for some time, and most agree adding a new judge would no longer be a complication. 

Baldwin, who has an office in Troup County, said he doesn’t know in what county the judge will have an office. Judges Jack Kirby and Emory Palmer are based in Coweta.

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