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Judge Wright presents needs for Cordele Municipal Court

By Erica O’Neal

Managing Editor

On Tuesday, July 3 Cordele City Commissioners began the bi-monthly meeting listening to suggestions from Cordele Municipal Court Judge, Rusty Wright.

Judge Wright pointed out there are Municipal Court needs that must be addressed.

“The first idea I wanted to address is the idea of pre-trial release in order to keep people from sitting in the jail because they can’t post a bond. The governor has made bail reform one of his top priorities, tried to pass legislation on it, he just signed a couple of weeks ago. I’ve talked with the Chief about it, I’m going to talk to the Sheriff about it,” Judge Wright said.

Judge Wright explained the 48-hour order. That law requires anyone who is charged with a crime to be brought before a Magistrate or a judge within 48 hours.

“My idea was to implement an order that if the person had not been before a judge within 48 hours, [they] will be released on a citation. It’s just not right to have people sitting in jail simply because they don’t have money,” Judge Wright said.

Along with bail reform for the state of Georgia, one of the state code sections has also been amended. According to Judge Wright, the amendment allows certain types of offenses to no longer have to be booked into the county jail. Offenses such as shoplifting, criminal trespass, misdemeanor possession of Marijuana, etc.

“They don’t have to be booked into jail anymore. They still have to be brought here, and still have to have a fingerprint check, but at that point the arresting officer will be able to release them on a citation. Without having to post any bond, that would relieve part of Commissioner Reeves’ concern for the type of medical expenses we have to pay. It would also relieve the city from having to pay whatever it is they pay to the county on a daily basis for that person just sitting in jail and having to wait for his court date,” Judge Wright said.

Judge Wright suggested to commissioners the need for a solicitor and

public defender for Cordele.

“As it is right now, the arresting officers are prosecuting officials. They might be good police officers, but they are not lawyers and they are not trained to present a case,” Judge Wright said.

Next Judge Wright highlighted the need to change the day of court. Right now in Cordele, court is held every week on Monday evenings. Judge Wright pointed out it would make more sense to have court one or two days, all day per month. Cases are irregular and holding court once a week “seems to be a burden on the officers,” Judge Wright said.

Commissioners decided to table the decision on these suggested changes until Judge Wright comes back with people to fill both the public defender and solicitor positions.

After listening to Judge Wright’s presentation, commissioners approved the 2018-2019 city budget for $24 million and made a note to possibly amend the budget to hire a public defender and solicitor.

The sidewalks project on 8th, 10th and 13th Streets South of 24th are going to open bids for work on the project on July 12.

The 2017 CDBG is in bid process and the documents have been gathered for the 2018 CHIP.

Railroad crossing notification construction at the 19th Ave. crossing is expected to begin soon.

UC&T will be checking on well water levels in the city because the warmer summer season has begun.

Commissioners approved a referendum for House Bill 17 to allow alcohol sales on Sundays at restaurants.

The next Cordele City Commissioner meeting will be Tuesday, July 17 beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the courtroom on the second floor in Cordele City Hall.