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Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - 8:10am

State's Top Judge Warns of 'Difficult' Budget Climate For Courts

Chief Justice Carol Hunstein told lawmakers Georgia’s courts are at a historic juncture as it manages to uphold justice amid a turbulent economy. She fired back at a bill that would cut the number of state judges to save money.

Chief Justice Hunstein says state judges are already having a hard time managing their caseloads. Murder, child custody and business cases are on backlog she says, so rather than reduce the number of superior court judges by 19, as SB 485 would do, they should raise them.

"Instead of cutting those judges, they should consider adding new judges."

Hunstein says cases are piling up in some superior courts and she's concerned further cuts to the judiciary could result in violating the US and State Constitution which requires the right to a speedy trial.

"If those cases, the criminal cases are not prosecuted in a timely manner, the cases could be dismissed with prejudice and never prosecuted again," says Hunstein.

Cuts could become more severe as lawmakers look for an additional one billion dollars to trim from the budget.