New Northern Circuit DA Says Office “In Deep State of Neglect”
By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia
New Northern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Parks White said the office he inherited is filled with years of backlogged cases.
White attended the Franklin County Board of Commissioners work session Tuesday to ask them for extra funding to supplement the salary of his new Chief Assistant District Attorney.
White said that the office is in what he called, quote, “a deep state of neglect.”
“The backlogs are massive. The cases go back four, five, six, and in some cases 10 years. The evidence is stale. This office has not been performing in any way to serve the community and fixing that is going to be a Herculean effort,” White said Tuesday.
White told the board he has boxes and boxes of cases filling his office; many open cases crammed into boxes he found stacked in closets.
He said the Northern Judicial Circuit has more open cases still waiting to be adjudicated than the City of Augusta, whose population is five times as large.
“The Augusta Circuit from which I had been prosecuting has about 500,000 people total and there are 28 assistant district attorneys in that circuit,” White said. “And this circuit has more open cases than Augusta does, with five assistant district attorneys and about a fifth of the population.”
White said he is replacing an assistant district attorney with an ADA from Augusta who will become his Chief Assistant District Attorney. However, he said under the rules of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, his office must remain budget neutral.
That means he cannot take more money out of his budget to pay the higher salary the job deserves so he is turning to the five counties in the Northern Circuit for help.
“Those are rules. When you poach from another circuit, you’re not allowed to increase their salary. You have to keep them at the same rate they were being paid at the state level,” White said. “No one gets into this for the money. That’s not what this is about. This is about my attempt to take the best lawyer in Augusta and bring him up here to serve this community.”
White said the new Chief ADA will begin work February 7. According to Franklin County Manager Billy Morse, White is asking the county for $1,998.87.
He added that so far, Hart, Elbert, and Madison counties have agreed to kick in extra funding and he expects Oglethorpe County to agree.
Franklin County Commission Chairman Tom Bridges told White the board would have an answer to his request at their regular meeting this week.