By Todd DeFeo / (c) 2010 Caboose Chronicle
ATLANTA — A state senator is proposing reducing by 19 the number of Superior Court judges in the state as part of a push to close a projected $1 billion state budget “shortfall.”
“In this budget atmosphere, nobody is exempt from cuts,” state Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, said in a news release. “If we can find significant savings in areas where we can consolidate, those are cuts we won’t have to make to education. This is an initial proposal. I’m asking for input from the courts to ensure that the right judgeships are eliminated.”
The bill (SB 485) would reduce the number of judges from 205 to 186; the Atlanta Circuit, for example, would lose four judges, going from 20 to 16. However, judicial districts that currently have two Superior Court judges do not face the prospect of having only a single judge on the bench, under the senator’s proposal.
“By eliminating 19 Superior Court judge positions, we’ll achieve approximately $13- $14 million in savings to the state budget,” Seabaugh said. “We looked at the overall cases filed per judge and found a more efficient balance of cases filed. Projected budget revenues return us to 2004-2005 levels. This is an area the legislature could find savings by reducing the number of judges to near 2004-2005 levels.”
According to Seabaugh, Superior Court judges on average handles about 3,200 cases, but the positions that would be eliminated average roughly 1,200 cases per judge. If the 19 judges were eliminated, those cases would be distributed to the other judges in the circuit.