Augusta, Burke Counties awarded $2 million grant to address court backlog

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — The Augusta Judicial Circuit has been awarded a $2 million grant to address the backlog of cases that has grown over the last two years. The grant was awarded by the State of Georgia and approved by the Augusta Commission this week.

Nolan Martin, the court administrator of the Augusta Judicial Circuit, says 500 cases are waiting to be tried. The grant funding will be used to hire 12 new employees, including attorneys, clerks, victims’ advocates, investigators, judges and judicial assistants, who will be tasked with moving those cases forward.

“When we were prohibited from holding jury trials, that created potholes in the road,” Martin explained. “This funding comes in and helps fix those potholes. Judge Craig and the Superior Court judges have put a very aggressive plan in place to be able to attack that backlog.”

Part of that plan includes adjusting the courts’ schedules to accommodate more trials.

“Instead of having 20 or 25 trial weeks per year for criminal cases, we will have 30 trial weeks in Richmond County and 12 weeks in Burke County as part of the circuit. At the same time, those cases that are ready for disposition wont have to wait until that assigned judge holds court again. We have a master calendar set up for every Friday for whatever case is ready to be disposed of and handled at that time.”

Violent felony cases will be prioritized first. If the courts can stay on schedule, Martin hopes the backlog will soon become a thing of the past.

“We believe we can get most of the backlog completed within the year.”

If the circuit can show that it has made progress in getting through some of the backlog, it may be eligible for additional grant funding in 2023 and 2024.


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