Executive order keeps ADA's in courtroom - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Executive order keeps ADA's in courtroom

June 1, 2007

Americus-  A collaboration between Governor Sonny Perdue and Georgia's Chief Justice will keep assistant district attorneys in the courtroom statewide. Budget shortfalls would have forced state furloughs later this month if someone hadn't stepped in.

Insufficient funds in the amended 2007 budget left the courts short more than $828,000. Governor Sonny Perdue made the announcement Friday in the Southwestern Judicial Court Circuit, a circuit that could have stood to lose the most.

Southwestern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Cecelia Cooper was just weeks away from have to shut down her six-county circuit. Budget shortfalls would have furloughed all four of her Assistant District Attorneys.

"I have six counties in my circuit, and some of those counties are some of the poorest counties in the state of Georgia. There's no way they could have covered the shortfall," said Cecelia Cooper, District Attorney.

Cooper was preparing for the worst Friday when Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears issued a judicial emergency order, allowing the Governor to transfer unallocated money from the state's general fund to cover the $828,758.15 shortfall.

"These are the people who are in the courtrooms protecting justice for victims all across the state. I didn't think it was right. They probably were going to come to work, but I didn't think it was right to have people employed by the state showing up uncompensated," said Governor Sonny Perdue.

"They honestly were seriously thinking about coming to work knowing that if they didn't when they came back the next week the workload would be so huge that they would have a difficult time catching up with it," said Cooper.

The emergency declaration and executive order saves Cooper unlimited questions that might have come from law enforcement if she had to furlough employees.

"What am I supposed to do with this case? Do I have enough for a search warrant? Should I issue an arrest warrant for this? All of those questions would go unanswered if we were shut down for a week," said Cooper.

Governor Sonny Perdue called the emergency measure a one-time event and hopes future budgets will provide for the judicial system. Governor Sonny Perdue said the money transferred was not allocated for anything and would have been sent back into the reserves.

According to the Governor's order Friday, the $828,758.15 will be repaid to the general fund when it becomes available.

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