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Judge rules in favor of Columbia County judicial split

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 7:16 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A decision is down on Columbia County’s split from the Augusta Judicial Circuit. A superior court judge decided Monday afternoon the split is constitutional and can move forward.

The split can move forward starting July 15, but lawyers say even though court is wrapped up for the day, things for them are far from over. It all came down to whether the judicial split is unconstitutional and whether Black votes were ignored — a decision long awaited.

“It needs to be done,” said Judge Adele Grubbs.

Columbia County will get its own court system instead of being part of the Augusta Circuit. The smaller Augusta Circuit will consist of Richmond and Burke counties.

The plaintiffs argued the split is not fair to Columbia County voters since Gov. Brian Kemp chose their district attorney instead of District Attorney Jared Williams, who won the election.

“The fact that I can go through all of the requirements to be a voter, to do everything that was required to cast that vote. And then at the end, not have that vote county, is tantamount to being three-fifths of a person,” said Willie Saunders, plaintiff.

The plaintiff’s later brought in what they called a “bombshell.” They presented a text message from Rep. Barry Fleming allegedly bringing up the topic of a split just a day after Williams won.

Although representatives for the state of Georgia argued, Augusta commissioners signed off on the split and the commission is majority Black. They also said Williams will still take office and nothing in the bill prevents people from voting.

And with final arguments Grubbs says the law allowing the judicial split is constitutional.

The lawyer representing one of the plaintiff’s says this isn’t over. They plan to appeal and from there it will go to the Georgia Supreme Court.

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