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Class-action lawsuit filed against Dougherty judicial system

In his lawsuit, Jim Finklestein contends that Magistrate judges are putting illegal restrictions on those who are granted bonds.

Albany, Ga. The Dougherty County Judicial System, including the superior court judges, magistrate judges, state court judge, district attorney's office and sheriff's office, are violating the constitutional rights of criminal defendants by failing to promptly set bonds, prohibiting them from attending bond hearings, and restricting the liberty of defendants released on bonds by placing undue conditions on bond that violate their constitutional rights, a class-action lawsuit filed this week contends.

The lawsuit, filed by local attorney Jim Finklestein on behalf of Steven Gregory, is seeking for an order from Superior Court ordering the magistrates and state court judge stop what he contends is an illegal practice of barring defendants from attending their own bond hearings, promptly schedule bond and committal hearings and put an end to a practice that he says strips defendants of their constitutional rights while out on bond.

The lawsuit also seeks to give the suit class-action status, to ensure the immediate release from custody and any conditions of bond until the suit can be heard and to award financial damages to Gregory for false imprisonment and wrongful arrest by two county police officers.

Gregory also contends that District Attorney Greg Edwards blocks attempts by defense attorneys from interviewing victims of crimes by instructing them not to speak to defense counsel even when they may have knowledge or evidence that would exonerate a defendant.

Edwards denied Thursday that his office attempts to block lawyers from talking to victims saying that if the victims of crime don't want to speak to other lawyers that's their choice.

"Just as a defendant has the right not to speak to me as a prosecutor, so does the victim not to speak to any other lawyer," Edwards said. "If they choose not to speak to anyone, that's their own prerogative."

According to court documents, Gregory was charged with aggravated stalking by the Dougherty County Police Department when he allegedly violated special conditions of the bond he was granted by the magistrate court when he "made derogatory statements" to Bobbie Leigh Roberts.

Finklestein contends in court documents that Gregory was jailed for 40 days on the charge and was twice denied bond by Magistrate Judges Robert Revell and Baxter Howell and was only released on a $3,000 bond following a committal hearing in which Gregory was further restricted. This time, Superior Court Judge Denise Marshall ordered Gregory to stay away from "stores and businesses on the eastern part of Dougherty County, including Kitty's Flea Market where plaintiff's sole business and livelihood was located prior to his arrest."

Finklestein contends that the judges overstepped their legal authority by imposing the bond restrictions and then waiting 52 days before scheduling a committal hearing, which was subsequently cancelled, to determine whether those conditions could be removed.

Finklestein further contends that the magistrate judges are illegally quashing subpoenas filed by defendants during bond hearings that could offer evidence that would exonerate them.

He points to a 2012 case where Magistrate Judge Victoria Darrisaw granted the district attorney's office motion to quash a subpoena for a video recording of a traffic chase and stop in which the defendant believed proved their innocence. Darrisaw then remanded the defendant to jail without bond based on the testimony of an Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit officer.

Later, in superior court, Judge Stephen Goss denied the state's identical motion to quash the subpoena, watched the video and then dismissed the drug charges.

Comments

LuLu 2 years, 5 months ago

Well, don't break the law and then you won't have to worry about it! Case closed!

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ugonelearn 2 years, 5 months ago

Everyone who goes to jail is not guilty. That is easy to say if its not you what if you were falsely accussed everyone is due their constitutional rights.

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waltspecht 2 years, 5 months ago

So, all these Judges are inept and shouldn't be sitting on the bench? Wouldn't that be a case for the Judicial Review Committee or the State Bar? Either of which could remove the Judge or their credentials? Oh I forgot, you don't make money doing it that way do you?

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Nous_Defions 2 years, 5 months ago

LuLu, I usually enjoy your comments BUT you are way off on this one. Please read the last 2 paragraphs in the article. It sounds like the Hon. Magistrate Judge Victoria Darrisaw forgot "The Rule of Law" and the US Constitution.

Remember this when you vote because the Hon. Judge Darrisaw is running for State Court Judge.

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Cartman 2 years, 5 months ago

Magistrate Judge Victoria Darrisaw? Based upon what is on her state court judge campaign signs, you would think her first name was "Judge". IMHO, all of her campaign signs violate this JQC opinion. Go to This Link and enter opinion number 167. Continuing to issue these signs until she is caught on it and made to correct it is telling. An ethical magistrate/candidate would stop as soon as it is brought to their attention.

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KaosinAlbany 2 years, 5 months ago

This is one of the reasons why I support Chris Warren.

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KaosinAlbany 2 years, 5 months ago

Have you reported her to the Ethics Committee? Until then nothing will be done.

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CKITOUTFIRST 2 years, 5 months ago

DOESN'T THAT SAY PART-TIME ? ? ? IS THIS JUDGE PART-TIME?

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CKITOUTFIRST 2 years, 5 months ago

IS THIS NOT EXACTLY OPPOSITE FROM YOUR "IMHO" IS: I copied this from the link YOU posted.

(4) Must any "Lower Court Part-Time Judge," if he chooses to refer to himself as a "Judge" in his campaign for election and advertising connected therewith, clearly state that he is not currently a Judge on the bench in the Superior Court?

Accordingly, questions 1, 2, 3 and 5 are answered in the affirmative and question 4 is answered in the negative.

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LuLu 2 years, 5 months ago

Thank you, Cartman! It just burns me up everytime I see one of her signs. It MUST be against the rules, right? When I first saw one several months ago, I combed through the SecofState website looking for rules governing campaign signs and couldn't find any. She has some nerve, and you would think the printer who made her signs would know something of this, too.

Oh, please try reposting the link.

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Cartman 2 years, 5 months ago

http://www.gajqc.com/opinions.cfm After you get there, input "167" in the opinion number blank and then hit search. Cliff notes: She can use the title "Judge" in a political ad or sign, but if not an incumbent, the ad or sign must explain that her current job is in a different court, so as not to mislead anyone into thinking she is an incumbent running for reelection.

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KaosinAlbany 2 years, 5 months ago

Check the State's Ethics site instead, LuLu

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jglass 2 years, 5 months ago

ugonelearn, I agree with you. A good while back I remember a marine sitting in jail accused of killing his wife, it was determined he was innocent, but he remained in jail for a few more days before released. This was not right. He should have been released immediately.

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Darien 2 years, 5 months ago

Man that one lawyer that God lets into heaven sure is going to be lonely.

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CKITOUTFIRST 2 years, 5 months ago

I've read the rule referred to above and it refers to "part-time".... Is JUDGE DARRISAW part-time?

And, since someone mentioned these candidates being "ETHICAL"... Has ANYONE checked out www.ethics.ga.gov (fka State Ethics Commission) site? I've searched for financial disclosure information and one of the candidates has filed NONE of the required reports and has missed numerous deadlines. I thought it was the LAW that they had to file these. How hard can that be?.... Aren't there fines imposed for that?

Seems like ANYONE can file ANY KIND of lawsuit these days. DOES NOT MEAN ITS FACTUAL anymore than a warrant means you are guilty ...

And .... I'd also like to find out why I've heard no mention of the candidate being the local KEN NUGENT ATTORNEY? You know, 'ONE CALL-THATS ALL' (confirmed:.http://www.attorneykennugent.com/locations/albany-ga/index.php) Leaves me wondering if Mr Finkelstien and Mr. Warren have a lot in common.

I'll be continuing my research.

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liln8ivechik83 1 year, 11 months ago

my fiancee has been sitting in dougherty county jail since before thanksgiving and has been waiting on a committal hearing which was scheduled for dec 27 and then it was rescheduled for jan 10th. he missed christmas with his family for something he is accused of doing. I just dont understand i thought it was innocent until proved guilty? Why do these judges not care that these people have lives and some of them are innocent they are sitting in jail wasting time and money my man has lost his job and i have been raising three kids alone. something is wrong with our system and these so called investigators and judges need to get their priorities in order and do their job not just take someones statement and then in turn ruin someones life. How can you throw someone in jail and then just make them sit there for almost two months???? He has no probation no parole no anything and i cant get a bond to bring him home to await his court date. I'm planning on filing a lawsuit when this is over and these charges are dropped someone is going to answer for what has happened to our family. i had no help with my childrens christmas i had to struggle. I will cut all ties to dougherty county and advise everyone else to do the same.

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