Athens DUI/Drug Court sets national example, again

When the Athens DUI/Drug Court was created in 2001, it was the first of its kind in Georgia.  Today there are 22 DUI courts in Georgia and over 600 DUI courts are in operation in the United States. 
On March 21, 2014, the Athens DUI/Drug Court was recognized as a National Academy Court by the National Center for DWI Courts (NCDC) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  And this isn’t the first go-around for Georgia’s first DUI Court: in 2008 began its first term as an Academy Court.
altOn the steps of the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse, Judge Michael Kavanaugh, NCDC Senior Director, said, “For several years Athens DUI/Drug Court has been a shining example of the best our criminal justice system has to offer.  The dedication of the Athens DUI/Drug Court team and the outstanding history of restoring lives and maximizing resources throughout this community made it an obvious choice as a learning site for other courts.”
U.S. Representative Paul Broun (right) spoke of the great need for courts that help offenders tackle their addictions to become productive citizens.  State Representative Regina Quick (R-117) acknowledged the extensive financial support that the state has expended for the creation and maintenance of accountability courts since Gov. Deal’s criminal justice reforms have taken effect. “State appropriations for accountability courts have increased from $2 million to $22 million in two years,” Rep. Quick noted.
Judge Charles Auslander (below, right), State Court of Clarke County, accepted the award on behalf of the DUI/Drug Court team saying that, as judge, he was the least important member of the team.  Judge Auslander recognized Senior Judge Kent Lawrence who created the DUI/Drug Court in 2001.
altEvery three years, the NCDC and the NHTSA recognize four DUI courts across the nation as Academy Courts.  Academy Courts help develop, identify and test national best practices for DWI Courts, including answering questions, providing advice, and hosting visitors including court teams from other jurisdictions participating in training. 
Prior to being selected, courts are subjected to a rigorous selection process and compete against hundreds of courts from across the nation.  Other courts selected as Academy Courts include Orange County DWI Court, Newport Beach, California; 58th District DWI Court, Holland, Michigan; and Greene County DWI Court, Greene County, Missouri.
Judicial representatives on hand for the press conference included Chief Judge David Sweat, Judge Lawton Stephens, and Judge Patrick Haggard, Superior Court; Chief Judge Ethelyn Simpson, State Court; Judge Robin Shearer, Juvenile Court; Judge Susan Tate, Probate Court; Judge Benjamin Makin and Judge Toni Pomerene, Magistrate Court.  Others in attendance included State Representative Chuck Williams (R-119) and State Senator Frank Ginn (R-47); Mr. C. R. Chisholm, Solicitor-General; Ms. Nancy Denson, Mayor; Mr. Ira Edwards, Sheriff; Jack Lumpkin, Police Chief; and Mr. Harris Blackwood, Director, Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.   Mr. Bob Bray, Executive Director, Council of State Court Judges, Ms. Molly Perry, AOC Court Service Division Directory, and Ms. Ashley G. Stollar, AOC Communications/Outreach Specialist, were also on hand for the press conference.


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