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Ga. top court orders fast action on Columbia County judicial split

Scales of justice
Scales of justice(WRDW)
Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 4:46 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled on the judicial split of Columbia County courts, and while the split remains on pause, the court doesn’t want that delay to drag on much longer.

Last Thursday was supposed to be the first day of the new Columbia County judicial circuit under a law passed by the Legislature.

The law, pushed by Columbia County as a cost-saving move, would split off that county’s courts from the Augusta Circuit, which would be reduced to Richmond and Burke counties.

Columbia County would also get its own district attorney, with Gov. Brian Kemp appointing former U.S Attorney Bobby Christine to that role.

Last week, a judge denied a petition to dismiss a civil lawsuit that brings up concerns about race and voter rights.

Local judges recused themselves from hearing the lawsuit, so a judge from elsewhere was appointed. That judge issued a temporary restraining order on the judicial split, but then was removed from the case over am unrelated conflict of interest.

After a new judge was put in charge of the case, a hearing was set for July 12, but there have already been a couple of developments in the case, including Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision.

The July 12 hearing is still set.

In fact, the Supreme Court directed that the hearing must take place July 12 at the latest in order to get the matter resolved quickly.

At the hearing, the court says these issues must be considered:

  • Whether at least one plaintiff has “direct or associational standing” to assert each of the claims.
  • Whether sovereign immunity, as defined and waived by current constitutional and statutory provisions, bars some or all of plaintiffs’ claims.
  • Whether the plaintiffs have sued the proper defendants.

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