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Morgan making room for third district judge

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com · 340-2437

Morgan County maintenance employees are knocking down walls and doors at the courthouse to make room for a third District Court judge.

The work is timely because state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, is sure that funding is on the way.

The beginning judge salary is $114,892.30 and a judicial assistant’s salary is $28,914,60, according to the state Administrative Office of Courts. Total cost for the office is about $270,000, said Orr.

Operating costs would be determined once the office opens.

“I am confident that an announcement will be made in the very near future regarding the funding of this third district judgeship,” Orr said. “I have certainly been working hard to secure this funding with the governor’s office and I’ve been encouraged by our discussions.”

After learning about the high number of cases in District Court, the local delegation got the judgeship approved in the Legislature seven years ago, but there was no funding.

The most recent statistics show that Morgan’s district judges disposed of 16,488 cases in 2006.

The cases include traffic, criminal, small claims, civil, juvenile and child support.

Orr started working to secure funding shortly after he entered office this year.

Appointment

Gov. Bob Riley will appoint someone to fill the post once it opens.

Generally individuals submit applications or requests for an appointment.

Then, within a specified time, the post comes up for election.

Another district judge requires more space.

Morgan District Court Judges David Breland and Shelly Waters are surrendering space in their respective
offices.

“Both Judge Waters and I voluntarily agreed to carve out some space from our offices to make room for a new courtroom and for the third judge that we hope to get,” said Breland.

“We have not received official word but we have hope that it will be announced soon.

“The new courtroom will be adjacent to my office suite. I made a small conference room accessible from the courtroom so that parties will have privacy to speak.”

Waters is making room in her office for the new judge and an administrative assistant.

She explained that her administrative assistant will move back to a conference room.

Moving

The new judge will move into the assistant’s old office.

The new judge’s assistant will occupy space in front of the office.

“We’re utilizing our space the best we can,” said Waters. “We want to try to keep the District Court in the same location.”

Waters said all three judges will use the courtroom as well as the other two courtrooms on the first and third floors. The new courtroom is on the third floor.

Types of cases

Breland said the new courtroom will be used mostly for juvenile and child custody cases.

Maintenance Supervisor Wayne Lindley said the courtroom will resemble one they built for Probate Judge Greg Cain.

“We started on it two weeks ago,” said Lindley. “We’ve cut out doors and knocked down walls. Now, we’re preparing the walls for painting.”

Lindley and his crew should be finished with construction in about a month.

“We’ll start building the judge’s bench next,” he said. “We hope it is complete with furnishings in about 60 days.”

The county is saving thousands with the in-house maintenance staff doing the work.

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