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December 2, 2006

UPDATE ON MAGISTRATE JUDGE “COACH” JACKSON

This past Monday, the I-Team on Fox 5 Atlanta ran a two part series on Jasper’s Magistrate Judge. If you missed the program, you can view it on the internet at www.myfoxatlanta.com. Go to the I-Team at the bottom of the page, then click on Part I and Part II of “Jasper County Judge.”

During Part II of this program Former Gov. Roy Barnes, the legislator that helped write the updated Magistrate Law in 1983, was interviewed. The Jasper County chief magistrate says state law allows him to be a full time judge and a part time lawyer at the same time. Former Governor Roy Barnes says he can't imagine anyone would interpret the law that way. Judge Jackson said during the interview he didn’t see an ethical problem. Others on the program did. Mr. Barnes said Judge Jackson was “stretching” the law. “If being a full time Judge, he was required to work 40 hours, when would Mr. Jackson have time to go to court? Court is not open at night.” That has been the TWG question for several years now.

Of 32 full time Magistrates in Georgia that are lawyers, 25 do not practice law on the side because they considered it a conflict. Again, Coach Judge Jackson doesn’t see it as a problem. He said in the interview that he didn’t see anything wrong with trying to make more money. But what does Jasper County pay him for? 100% of all bad checks, 65% of all arrest warrants, 54% of all search warrants, and 41% of all bond hearings were signed by Deputy Magistrate Angela Nelson, not the Judge. The Monticello News reported that there was ONE warrant over the Thanksgiving holiday written; according to Fox 5 there have only been 8 written after hours the entire year.

The JQC (Judicial Qualification Commission) oversees Judges and their practices. Based on many calls the TWG has received since the I-Team investigation, Judge Jackson’s actions in the courtroom may have him being investigated. Several people have already indicated they will be writing JQC about their courtroom experiences.

During this past week the Jasper County Magistrate showed his disdain for the people. After the I-Team investigation laid out the facts that our Magistrate does little Magistrate work and far from 40 hours a week, Coach Judge Jackson continued his usual weekly schedule of lawyering and coaching. As reported by citizens that have seen Coach Judge Jackson, here are some of his “activities” this week:

Monday 11/27--left the Courthouse at approx. 2:30pm to go to the school and then left for a school in Monroe where he spent the rest of the afternoon coaching a Basketball game.

Tuesday 11/28--left courthouse at approx 1:45pm to go to coach Basketball practice. It was also reported he was seen that morning on his way toward Milledgeville by a citizen that had seen the clip the night before. They were more than happy to call and report seeing him.

Wednesday 11/29--was seen coming from Turtle Cove and turning onto Hwy 212 toward Monticello at 8:55AM. The Clerk of Court says the offices are open at 8AM.

Thursday 11/30—at approximately 3:00PM Coach Judge Jackson went out the back of the courthouse, got in his truck and left. He ended up in Forsyth to coach a basketball game.

Friday 12/1--at 2:25pm, Coach Judge Jackson could not be found at the courthouse.

The time has come to do something. The Judge showed everyone on the TV presentation that he was going to do whatever he pleased. It is now up to the Commissioners to put a stop to all this. People are angry and have talked constantly about the arrogance shown by the Judge.

Comm. Bernard stated in his article that citizens talk about problems but never have solutions. Here are some solutions that can make this problem go away:

  • Make the job part time, which it is and has been. The Judge SAYS he is full time but hasn’t been able to verify he works 40 hours a week. This job has always been a part time job, but because of the abuse going on it seems our county will have to make it “officially” part time. This may have to be done by local legislation. Rep. Jim Cole and Sen. Johnny Grant should be contacted so this can be done during the next General Assembly.
  • Cut the unreasonable $20,000 supplement that the last Board of Commissioners gave him. Judge Jackson is also receiving a 5% “term” supplement for a full 4-year term he did not serve.
  • Make him verify his hours starting now. If he doesn’t work 40 hours, he shouldn’t be paid 40 hours. The laws states you are full time IF YOU WORK 40 hours. This job has always been a part time job.

All of Jasper County will be watching how this is handled. There can be action taken. It will be up to our Commissioners to do something. We urge citizens to contact the BOC and tell them how you feel about the situation. All BOC members names, numbers, and email addresses can be found at www.taxdogs.com/commissioners.htm on the Jasper County Commissioners page.

TWG
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