The Inside Story: Ousted juvenile court judges call for defunding court over diversity concerns

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- We first told you about big changes for Augusta's juvenile court system. The court will soon have full-time judges, but some are now complaining about a lack of diversity.

"To a certain extent, and this is rare," said Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders. "I'm somewhat speechless."

Saunders says he can't believe Augusta's juvenile court system will soon have no African-American judges.

"Diversity matters," said Juvenile Court Judge Ben Allen. "You have got to have diversity."

Allen and Saunders took to the airwaves during our weekly radio segment on 96.3 KISS FM with Fattz and Cher after being passed over in a recent move from part-time to full-time judges. This is a court system where more than 80 percent of the young people coming from places like Augusta's Youth Development Campus are African-American.

"I truly believe that it is a great loss to our community because no one race has the brain-trust on how to deal with children," Allen said.

Saunders blames politics. Saunders ran against the man who appointed him to the position, Chief Superior Court Judge Carlisle Overstreet.

"I was not surprised that I was not reappointed. It's part of the old spoils system," Saunders said. "The people spoke and then the judges spoke."

Allen says the people need to speak out again.

"The county commission is the funding source for juvenile court," Allen said. "You can tell your county commissioner that until we have diversity, perhaps the funding source should dry up."

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