One of Cobb County's judges says he wants to save taxpayers as much as $500,000 annually by eliminating a judgeship from another court.
Chief Magistrate Court Judge Frank Cox wants the state government to ax a seat on Cobb County State Court Division II, which handles traffic cases. One position will be vacated when State Court Judge Robert Leonard III is sworn in to the Cobb Superior Court on Oct. 26.
Cobb County State Court Chief Judge Toby Prodgers has argued against Cox's proposal, saying the traffic court will be busy enough for Leonard's seat to be filled.
Cox and Prodgers have made their cases in letters to the Cobb County Board of Commissioners.
Commission Chairman Tim Lee plans to stay out of the dispute, according to an email he sent to the Daily Report. "I have a lot of respect for both of these Judges and appreciate their perspectives on the issue," Lee wrote. "Since judgeships are created by the state legislature and appointments are made by the governor, I am going to rely on their judgment."
After Governor Nathan Deal tapped Leonard, Cox wrote the Cobb commissioners, saying the traffic court job should be eliminated. He said it's common knowledge that the traffic court judges don't have enough work to do and estimated that cutting one of their jobs would save the county $500,000 a year between judicial salary, support staff and other costs. As evidence, he cited a drop in traffic cases and noted that traffic court judges sometimes have enough time to hear cases for the Superior Court.
Cox suggested the commissioners ask the governor not to fill Leonard's job and request the Cobb delegation to eliminate it in the next session. The process, Cox said, was the same one followed to create new judicial positions. He copied the county manager and said he provided a copy to the hometown newspaper, the Marietta Daily Journal, after it made an open records request.
Cox said the number of traffic cases has dropped in the past two years as budget cuts have required furloughs for police and other employees and frozen raises. At the same time, he noted, a statewide increase in state court filing fees has dramatically increased the number of matters being filed in his magistrate court, with no accompanying increase in staff for his court.
Cox said he didn't expect the state court judges to like his idea.
"But the taxpayers do," he said. He also said he's not particularly surprised that he's received no response from the commission.