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Columbia County wraps up first day under its own court system

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 7:27 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 23, 2021 at 9:51 AM EDT
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EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGBT) - New Columbia County District Attorney Bobby Christine was sworn in this morning after the county got its own court system, splitting off from the Augusta Circuit.

The swearing-in ceremony got underway at 9:25 a.m. Friday, a day after the launch of the court system on Thursday.

WATCH THE CEREMONY HERE:

Gov. Brian Kemp was there. He appointed Christine to the post, since there hasn’t been an election for D.A. since the county got the OK to move forward with the court system after passage of Senate Bill 9.

After the ceremony, Kemp was headed to a news conference with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office about a gang investigation.

Earlier

EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Columbia County has wrapped up the first day under its own court system. After months of lawsuits and legal challenges the county’s split from the Augusta Judicial Circuit just took effect Thursday.

The new county court system will consist of three superior court judges. Those are James Blanchard, Sheryl Jolly, and J. Wade Padgett. It also includes the new district attorney Bobby Christine, public defender Mack Taylor, and the community services division.

Just like the first day of school. Both Richmond County and Columbia County are prepping their courtroom and staff for the start of a new era. The courtrooms are ready and the offices are preparing.

“I imagine what’s going on is they are going through the cases and dividing them up and things of that nature. It might be a few hiccups here or there but I think its going to be smooth,” said state Sen. Harold Jones II.

Thursday marked the first official day of the judicial split making Columbia County and Richmond and Burke counties two separate circuits.

“Your talking about two of the top 15 populated counties in the state of Ga that were put together and that’s just not a good mix,” Jones said.

Jones feels looking forward, the split will only benefit both Richmond County and Columbia County.

“Well, there’s always going to be challenges but I think with the type of people we have working the new DA in Columbia County, the new DA in Richmond County the judges who will continue to work together, the counties are going to continue to work together, I think those challenges will be met,” said Senator Jones.

The pandemic caused a massive backlog in cases which now both circuits are going to have to address.

In a statement, Augusta District Attorney Jared Williams said:

“The Augusta District Attorney’s Office is using the circuit split to focus on providing a higher level of service to Richmond and Burke County residents. For the first time, the DA’s office is appropriately staffed to handle the over 5,000 pending cases in our circuit. We will now have the resources to better serve the community, ensuring our neighborhoods are safer, our victims are protected, and our young people have opportunities to succeed.”

“Because if you look at it from a numbers standpoint more felonies are actually committed in Richmond County so it give us an opportunity form the criminal side to kinda concentrate on those particular areas,” said Jones.

This week, Augusta’s city administrator also recommended using some of Augusta’s $82 million in American Rescue Plan funding to help get through some of the case backlog.

There is still a possible appeal to the supreme court’s decision a few weeks ago to allow the split. Despite that Jones says he thinks the court will uphold their decision.

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