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How will cases be handled as Columbia County develops new judicial circuit?

Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 7:26 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Columbia County is now set to have its own judicial circuit after being part of the Augusta circuit for more than 150 years.

The change came with a lot of debate with some saying it was time for Columbia County to stand on its own, and others wanting to preserve a long-standing collaboration.

Representative Mark Newton told us the split was years in the making and now it’s coming to fruition.

But after a year of backlogged cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some are worried the switch could make the wait for justice even longer.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing. I have concerns as to, is this going to further delay this case?” Miss Bonsack said.

Bonsack is happy to see Columbia County stand on its own but is worried justice for her family could be denied.

Over two and a half years ago, our I-Team uncovered a string of unhappy customers of Georgia-Lina Pools.

Bonsack and others allege the owners charged them for pool work done improperly or not done at all.

“I want to be able to close this. I want to be able to move past it and say, ‘Okay, the courts took care of it, due diligence, the law was done,’” Bonsack said.

Just this past January, 27 felony indictments were filed against those owners, Bruce and Heather Alford, after there was a delay due to the pandemic.

We spoke to Judge Carl Brown, and though he was against the splitting of the circuit, he says he has faith everyone on both sides of the river will work as diligently as possible.

Representative Newtown who backed the split agrees.

“I’m confident that the new appointee will hit the ground running and probably have a proven track record as well,” Newton said.

Columbia County’s new district attorney will be chosen by Governor Brian Kemp.

He or she, along with many others are set to have offices out of the old Tax-Slayer building.

“A great facility that could house all the needed components. District attorney, solicitor, the appropriate number of judges,” Newton said.

And July 1, will be a new chapter as Columbia County tries to stand on some legs of its own.

We asked Representative Newton, Judge Brown, and Chairman Doug Duncan if they knew how the caseload between counties will be divided.

They told us they weren’t the best people to ask.

Chairman Duncan said it’s a certainty that Augusta DA Jared Williams and the new DA will be working collaboratively to get those divided up.

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