DA Parks White Working on Plan to Expand State Court

The Franklin County Grand Jury is calling on the County to work with Northern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Parks White to reduce the caseload for his assistant district attorneys and increase their salaries.

Currently, the six ADA’s in White’s office are some of the most overworked and underpaid attorneys in any circuit in the State, according to the DA.

White says at any given time, they are typically handling roughly 500 cases at a time, which he says limits their ability to give their full attention to the more serious cases.

“They’re not working 40-hour work weeks. They’re working more than that; often in court sometimes until 9p at night,” White explained. “They can only devote five hours to each case, max. And anytime above that, they have to take time away from other cases. You just can’t handle any felony with five hours. You need preparation time, such as getting and receiving warrants, getting and taking depositions, getting the evidence from the Sheriff’s office, the investigative agencies reviewing that evidence, etc.”

Sam Smith is the Assistant District Attorney for Madison County.

White worries good ADA’s like Smith will leave and go work in another circuit where the caseloads are lower and the pay is higher.

White said he’s already lost one ADA to the Omulgee Circuit, after training her for two years.

Smith agrees his caseload is overwhelming, and he’s hoping there’s a solution soon.

“Except in Elbert County, the DA’s office has to handle every case that comes up for a trial,” Smith said. “So if someone gets a traffic ticket and they want to send that up for a jury trial, we have to handle that. If we could somehow lessen the misdemeanors and traffic citations that end up in Superior Court and have a State court handle those or any misdemeanor case, that would help.”

Smith said about about a third of the 500-600 cases he handles could be heard in State Court.

White says he’s hoping an effort to expand the State Court in Elbert County to include Franklin, Hart, and Madison counties will alleviate his ADA’s case loads.

“I’m working with the Elbert County Solicitor to expand the State Court to Franklin, Hart, and Madison Counties,” White said. “That would require local legislation. That will allow us to focus on the felon cases, which require a lot more preparation, time and attention.”

If the State Court is expanded the State Court Solicitor’s job would, White said, move to a full-time position.

White pointed out that State Court judges tend to treat misdemeanor case more seriously than Superior Court judges because they are used to trying more serious crimes.

Additionally, White noted if the State Court were expanded, it would mean more revenue for the Counties from the fines and court costs generated.

White plans to pitch his idea to the county boards of commission at their next meetings in November.