Judicial Council recommends new Gwinnett judge

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett County will be first in line to get a new superior court judge, thanks to a recommendation announced Wednesday by the Judicial Council of Georgia.

Gwinnett ranked first in the council's recommendations for new judgeships, followed by Dublin, Enotah, Cordele, Southern, Brunswick, Atlanta and Alapaha. The decision was based on several factors including weighted caseloads and population growth.

The list will be taken into consideration by the Georgia lawmakers and the governor in next year's legislative session. If approved and funded, Gwinnett's 10th superior court judge would take the bench Jan. 1, 2008, said Rick Diguette, spokesman for the state Supreme Court.

"It was not a surprise," said Phil Boudewyns, court administrator for Gwinnett County. "Internally we have felt the need for an additional judgeship, but the state's statistics clearly show Gwinnett's great need."

The county has nine superior court judges and five state court judges. A sixth state court judge is expected to begin work in January, and interviews are already under way for those potential candidates, Boudewyns said.

Gwinnett County Chief Superior Court Judge Dawson Jackson was pleased upon hearing about the council's recommendation.

"That recommendation is very helpful because there are a lot of circuits in competition for a judgeship," Jackson said. "It's somewhat of an anxiety-producing event when you see the high volume of cases that are coming."

Typically, the state Legislature doesn't have enough money to fund all the recommended judgeships, so counties highest on the list take priority. Gwinnett County has a population of 80,697 per superior court judge. The county with the next highest population-to-judge ratio was Cobb, with 73,758 residents per judge, according to the council's report.

Last year, each Gwinnett Superior Court Judge handled an average of 35 misdemeanor cases, 204 probation revocation cases, 434 civil cases and 1,200 domestic relations cases.