July 15, 2007
SALARY CUT BY COMMISSIONERS
Once again the
Commissioners have requested Magistrate Judge Ken Jackson
to verify and certify his hours. This is the third time
this Board of Commissioners has done so; however, if the
Judge does not comply this time, he
will be paid for a 20 hour work week starting September
1, 2007, based on action of the BOC on July 10.
There has been
much evidence in the past that the Judge does not work 40
hours a week. TWG seriously doubts that he can document
20 hours a week legitimately. Some have mentioned a time
clock to confirm the full-time hours of the Chief Magistrate.
However, the clock can be punched by anyone in his behalf.
In the past, the Clerk’s office has defended Judge Jackson
when he is not available at the courthouse during his absences
while coaching and practicing law.
Judge Jackson spends the majority of his office hours time
out of the courthouse doing private practice legal work
or coaching various ball teams. During the 2006 –2007 School
Year, Coach Jackson was observed attending practices and
games for the following teams and was listed as “Coach”
on programs and in the year book:
Jr. Varsity Softball, Varsity
Softball, Jr. Varsity Boys Basketball, Varsity Boys Basketball,
and Jr. Varsity Baseball, and Varsity Baseball. These
games were held from Thomasville to Watkinsville and Savannah
to LaGrange. The travel time alone would have kept the Judge
out of the courthouse many days. On most days, the Judge
was observed usually arriving at the school by 2PM daily
for practices. He was out of town for several days at a
time for tournaments and playoff games.
here of Coach Jackson
The Magistrate has claimed he has the right to perform private
law practice duties while serving as a full time Judge.
He has been appointed as a Juvenile
Defender. Those duties require him to have
the following schedule: Monday
mornings in Putnam County; alternate Tuesdays in Morgan
or Jones County; alternate Wednesdays in Greene or Jasper
County; and Thursdays in Baldwin County.
(Yes, he does receive a separate check from Jasper
for his Juvenile defense work. True double-dipping!)
He holds magistrate court in Jasper County on Fridays, but
not every Friday. TWG is still trying to pin down just how
many cases Judge Jackson hears, but rarely does his court
last past lunchtime on Fridays. Judge Jackson brings in
various amounts of money from his private law practice in
addition to his county pay for Magistrate ($72,500+). Based
on previous years’ pay records from his juvenile defender
jobs he has had additional income of approximately $50,000
and lawyer Roy Barnes was one of the original writers of
the Magistrate Law. When questioned he said it
was never the intent of the law that full-time Magistrates
should be able to practice law at the same time. He emphasized
that full-time meant full-time.
SUPPLEMENT over and above Salary and Juvenile Work
After the I-Team Investigation on Channel 5 last fall, the
Commissioners voted unanimously in April 2007 to eliminate
the $20,000 Magistrate Supplement, effective
at the end of the current term—December 31, 2008. Whoever
is elected as Magistrate in 2008 to start the term as of
January 1, 2009, will not be entitled
to the supplement. This supplement was given after Ken Jackson
said he would be able to “spend greater time in the office.”
That never happened, but the Supplement was never removed.
request by Ken Jackson 8.12.02
The Commissioners filed a complaint with the JQC (Judicial
Qualifications Commission) concerning the Magistrate Judge
in January 2007. The JQC declined
to have any hearings about the Complaint.
Several private citizens also sent complaints about the
Judge, some which had to do about his conduct in his court.
The JQC stated in its letter back to the Commissioners that
the complaint “failed to reveal any conduct on the part
of the Judge evidencing any violation of the Code.”
refusal to review or to hold hearings is strange indeed
as the JQC had previously ruled in 2004 and publicly reprimanded
the Magistrate Judge of Screven County (Jenkins) that his
attending law school in Atlanta required him to be “regularly
absent from his office.” They quoted Canon 3A—“the judicial
duties of judges take precedence over all their other activities.”
The also quoted Canon 5A—“Judges may not engage in such
avocational activities as detract from the dignity of their
office or interfere with the performance of their judicial
decided in this case that “being repeatedly absent from
the Magistrate Court office…you have failed to promptly
and fairly attend to the business of the Court.” Thereafter,
Jenkins was denied application to take the Bar Exam and
the Georgia Supreme Court approved the reprimand.
YET, in Jasper
County’s request, the JQC couldn’t find enough evidence
(even with receiving the entire tape of the I-Team Investigation)
to hold hearings, much less reprimand the Magistrate.
The Magistrate’s Salary for 2007 is $72,524. This includes
his $20,000 supplement and a 5% “term” supplement for a
“full four year term” he did not serve. The Clerk of Court
“figures” the salary, including the term supplements for
the magistrate. The State Legislature gave all constitutional
officers large raises in 2006 to take effect in 2007. The
Magistrate’s increase was over $12,000.
Magistrate 2007 Salary
See: 5% Term
Anyone who is 25 years or older, has a high school diploma,
and has lived in the County for at least one year is qualified
to be a Magistrate according to the Georgia Code:
15-10-22. Qualifications of magistrates; restrictions on
practice of law
(a) Each magistrate shall have been a resident of the county
for one year next preceding the beginning of his term of
office and shall as of such date be at least 25 years of
age and shall possess a high school diploma or its equivalent.
With a base salary of $46,408.38, health care benefits,
retirement benefits, and a “staff” to help, TWG
believes there are a number of people in Jasper County with
good common sense that could run for and perform the duties
of the office of Magistrate Judge. Many
counties in Georgia have non-lawyer Magistrates that do
a fine job and are available on a daily basis.
** To keep the taxpayers of Jasper County, Georgia informed
as to where and how
their tax dollars are being spent.
** To keep the taxpayers abreast of local policies and
discussed and enacted.
** We advocate more open government, less government spending,
and lower property taxes.