Court begins for Columbia County Circuit Tuesday

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EVANS, Ga. (WJBF) — After months of legal battles, court will begin in the Columbia County Judicial Circuit. Chief Judge James Blanchard, Judge Sheryl Jolly and Judge J. Wade Padgett will take their seats as the circuit’s first leaders.

“We’re going to put our best foot forward,” Chief Judge James Blanchard says.

It is a special moment for Blanchard, who has spent his career serving the county.

“I’m humbled. It wasn’t anticipated. I will try to do my best for the county and people of Columbia County.”

When courtrooms open Tuesday, the work begins.

“We have preliminary hearings, Bobby Christine, Columbia County’s district attorney, says. “We have bond hearings and all those first steps.”

The county has prepared for this day for months. Bobby Christine, the county’s district attorney, has worked closely with Augusta District Attorney Jared Williams to separate cases.

“We will march into court fully prepared because of the work he’s [Jared Williams] done,” Christine says. “It’s a baton handoff between sprinters. I will tell the people of this community that Jared Williams ran through the tape.”

Tensions flared when Columbia County proposed splitting the circuit in November 2020. Williams suggested the county may have moved to split because he was elected as to represent them as district attorney. He now says he is ready for the counties to work together.

“We’ve been working nonstop to bring this about because it’s important,” Williams says. “Everything we do is important no matter who’s in charge. We have victims who deserve justice. We have accused [people] who need a fair process. I know that DA Christine is going to do that well for the people of Columbia County.”

The circuit will face a final legal battle later this year when the Georgia Supreme Court hears an appeal challenging the circuit.

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