AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — After 150 years, Columbia County will split from the Augusta Judicial Circuit. Senior Judge Adele Grubbs ruled in favor of the county and state of Georgia in a hearing Monday, saying S.B. 9 is valid and constitutional.
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“We’re thankful the due process was heard,” Doug Duncan, the Chairman of the Columbia County’s Board of Commissioners, says. “We’re thankful all the evidence was clearly heard and the judge ruled in our favor. We’re ready to move forward.”
Governor Brian Kemp signed off on S.B. 9, the bill allowing Columbia County to split, in March after it was approved by the State Legislature. The county was scheduled to form its own circuit on July 1. However, attorney Willie Saunders challenged S.B. 9, claiming it violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and is unconstitutional. He also argued the county moved forward with the proposal to keep Jared Williams from being its district attorney.
“Senate Bill 9, in my estimation, nullifies my vote,” Saunders explained while testifying.
After hours of testimony, Judge Grubbs ruled S.B. 9 is constitutional and can go into effect July 15.
“It shows that the Constitution was followed,” State Sen. Harold Jones says. “It shows that the Legislature had the power to do this. We always thought that we did.”
Columbia County and the Augusta Judicial Circuit now have to get to work. Beginning Thursday, they can begin dividing court cases. Bobby Christine can be sworn in Columbia County’s first district attorney.
“It’s something we’re all going to work together on,” Jones says. “We’ll make sure to get through it.”
Saunders’ fight may not be over yet. He tells NewsChannel 6 he will consider appealing Monday’s ruling.
“We’re going to look at our legal options, and then we’ll make a decision from there,” Saunders says.
District Attorney Jared Williams declined to comment on how the Augusta Judicial Circuit will divide cases with Columbia County.