EVANS, Ga. (WJBF) — Columbia County’s new court system is facing another set-back. Senior Judge Adele Grubbs set a hearing date for July 12, more than a week after the county was scheduled to split from the Augusta Judicial Circuit.
Gov. Brian Kemp approved a resolution in March, allowing the split to occur. Two months later, Attorney Willie Saunders filed a lawsuit against the Governor to stop the split. He argues it would lead to an uneven workload for judges, is a violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act and is racially motivated.
“The only reason all of this is occurring is because we elected the first African American district attorney,” Saunders claims. “You’re not going to get me to believe anything different.”
County leaders and State Rep. Mark Newton, who helped push the resolution through Georgia’s State Legislature, say that is not the case.
“Members of multiple races voted in favor of this bill,” Newton explains. “I don’t believe this is a racial issue. I think the bill is the right legislation at the right time. Columbia County has had tremendous growth, and this is the right time.”
Senior Judge Gail S. Tusan, the previous judge overseeing the case, issued a temporary restraining order on June 15, halting the split for 30 days. All activities related the the split were forced to “immediately cease.”
“People on both sides of the judicial side need an answer, and they need it quickly,” Newton says. “The citizens deserve to have some certainty and clarity as we move forward. There are a lot of people who have been waiting a long time for their day in court. Frankly, the constitution says we deserve a speedy trial.”
A spokesperson from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office tells NewsChannel 6 cases involving their inmates “continue to be processed by the Augusta Judicial Circuit” for the time being.