Day on the Bench in Columbia County

This article ran in the Columbia County News Times

Members of the Augusta Judicial circuit held the first Law Day celebration in Columbia County that gave Columbia County leaders, legislators and other community leaders a look inside the day-to-day operations of the justice system.

Sponsored by the Georgia Judicial Council’s Administrative Office of the Courts in honor of Law Day, visitors were able to observe all aspects of the judicial system.

Augusta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Carl C. Brown (below) opened the event at the Columbia County Justice Center in Evans, explaining how far the circuit has come in his time of service.

Judge Carl C. Brown“I can distinctly remember the courthouse in Appling when we would have Monday calendar calls, how crowded it was,” Brown said. “We had jurors, persons to appear in court, up and down the stairway, some even on the outside of the courthouse, all because it was not possible to get in comfortably. Fast forward to today, and this morning, with a beautiful jury assembly room, one of the best in the state. …We are really, really fortunate to be able to do the people’s business in this circuit with the facilities that we have.”

District Attorney Ashley Wright also spoke on the program’s theme; Miranda: More Than Words.

Wright explained the origins of Miranda Rights to participants.

“Ernesto Miranda is probably one of the most famous people in criminal jurisprudence,” Wright shared. “For those who did not go to law school, everyone knows at least that name.”

Wright explained that Miranda was a rapist whose conviction was vacated due to his claim that law enforcement violated his rights upon his arrest. Wright explained that Miranda was eventually convicted of the rape using other evidence. Her point, she said, is that there are two sides to every story. Wright continued on to explain her job as a prosecutor also included protecting the rights of the defendant in every case.

“Even though we are responsible for the appropriate prosecution of the defendant we are protecting the defendant while representing the victim, so there is sort of two sides to the system, two perceptions,” Wright said.

Guests also heard addres­s­es by Probate Judge Alice Padgett and Clerk of Court Cindy Mason.

Each shared the variety of responsibilities each office holds which runs the gamut from record keeping and licenses to collecting court ordered fines and fees.

After observing several court proceedings, including a juvenile hearing presided over by Chief Juvenile Court Judge Douglas J. Flanagan, the group was educated on the procedures for securing the building by the justice ­center’s Chief Bailiff Lt. Daniel Berry.

“I have a staff of 11 people that man the building 24 hours a day,” Berry explained. “Our main function is court security.”

Berry explained the innerworkings of how inmates are detained when they are required to appear before a judge.

“We can hold usually up to about 10 inmates per cell because we are only holding them for a very short period of time,” Berry said. “So they can see their attorney, step into court, when they’re done in court, we bring them back to that little small holding area. From there we bring them into our basement. Our basement will hold approximtely 55 inmates.”

The Day on the Bench program was a first for Columbia County and was put on by the AOC in support of Law Day, which was observed on May 1.

 

http://newstimes.augusta.com/news/2016-05-22/event-looks-inside-judicial-system

 

This event was broadcasted via Live stream and can be viewed at https://livestream.com/accounts/15641258/events/5406267. Photos of the events can viewed at http://bit.ly/1XbDVOH

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