ALBANY -- Dougherty County Superior Court Chief Judge Willie Lockette outlined ways the county's judicial division is attempting to cut costs during a discussion with the County Commission's Finance Committee Monday morning.
Lockette said judges in the circuit have tried to cut jury compensation by putting prospective jurors on a call-back basis, have worked to expand use of telejustice to avoid needless transport, have sought to control jail population through electronic house arrests and other means, and have made frequent visits to the county jail to look for ways to cut into the number of inmates being held, sometime for days, for pretrial hearings.
"Some of the things we do don't necessarily show up in our budget," Lockette said. "But I feel that all of our judges have been team players, doing things individually and collectively to cut costs."
Lockette expressed concern on behalf of the judges over an Albany Herald report on a discussion the committee had about the process of cutting county supplements paid judicial officers.
"As you know, any such cut has a ripple effect since all of our judges' salaries are based on the Superior Court chief judge's salary," he said. "And you may not be aware, but the state has not increased Superior Court judges' salaries in the last decade and a half.
"I think a bottom line here is that if judges feel they're not appreciated, they would be less enthusiastic about doing some of the things they're doing now. I think some might have a wrong impression that you're singling out the judges to tackle some of your budget issues. I hope I can go back and tell the judges to keep moving forward, that we're not being targeted."
Lockette wrote a letter to county officials expressing concern about possible county supplement reductions after an article about the Finance Committee's discussion appeared in the Oct. 9 Herald.
"I hope it's clear that (supplement reductions) are a moot point right now," Finance Committee Chairman Lamar Hudgins said Monday.
During the Oct. 8 discussion, County Administrator Richard Crowdis pointed out that reduction of county supplements, which are $29,132.79 for the chief Superior Court judge and $26,974.36 for other Superior Court judges, could not be made during a term for which the (Superior Court) judges had already been elected and that such a matter had to be approved by the General Assembly's Local Legislation Committee.
"I don't envy you the job in front of you," Lockette said Monday of the ongoing budget negotiations.