MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice wants state legislators to move forward with recommendations that would change the types of cases the court hears.
Chief Justice Hugh P. Thompson gave his State of the Judiciary speech Wednesday at the Capitol in Atlanta. He stressed the importance of having a 21st Century court system that keeps up with an ever expanding state. He said “while our population has nearly doubled since 1983, the number of Georgia judges has grown only 16 percent. We must work together to ensure that our judicial system has enough judges, staff and resources in the 21st century to fulfill the mission and constitutional duties our forefathers assigned to us.”
Chief Justice Thompson then urged state lawmakers to follow recommendations from Governor Nathan Deal’s Georgia Appellate Jurisdiction Review Commission.
“This realignment will bring the Supreme Court of Georgia in line with other state Supreme Courts, which handle only the most critical cases that potentially change the law,” said Chief Justice Thompson.
He explained under the Georgia Constitution, state Supreme Court justices hear every case that comes before them, including divorces, wills and disputes over boundary lines. If state lawmakers move support the commission’s recommendations, the state’s highest court would only hear cases that could impact current law. The Court of Appeals would handle all other cases.
“We will retain jurisdiction of constitutional challenges to the laws you enact, questions from the federal courts seeking authoritative rulings on Georgia law, election contests, murder and death penalty cases, and cases in which the Court of Appeals judges are equally divided,” said Chief Justice Thompson.
He commended state legislators for approving three new Court of Appeals judges, which allows the court to have five panels. It will be able to consider five times as many cases as the Georgia Supreme Court, according to Chief Justice Thompson.
He thanked Governor Deal for his idea to build a new the first state Judicial Building in Georgia’s history that will be dedicated solely to the judiciary. He said the current building wasn’t designed with visitors or technology in mind.
“No, this building is not just about bricks and mortar. Rather it is a place that will house Georgia’s highest court where fairness, impartiality, and justice will reign for future generations,” said Chief Justice Thompson.
Chief Justice Thompson stressed the importance of translators and up to date technology in the court system. He recognized the work of the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform saying it “has been busy transforming our criminal justice system into one that does a better job of protecting public safety while holding non-violent offenders accountable and saving millions in taxpayer dollars.”
He closed his speech explaining state leaders have a difference of opinion, but what makes Georgia so great is their dedication to upholding the law.
“In Georgia, we may like the law, we may not like the law, but we follow the law,” said Chief Justice Thompson.