County could ask to keep three judges

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 30, 2003

What a difference 1,016 people make. With that change in the census, Adams County stands to lose one of its three justice court seats.

According to state law, counties with fewer than 35,000 people can only have two justice court judges.

That means that with 34,340 people, Adams County must lose a judge &045; unless lawmakers can get support for an amendment that would make exception to the rule. Adams County Supervisors will decide Monday whether to ask for the exception.

Email newsletter signup

According to current justice court judges and other court employees, losing a judge would present a hardship. The court already hears about 5,000 cases per year, at least according to last year’s figures.

If the Legislature expands their jurisdiction, justice court judges could hear even more cases &045; up to 8,000.

It does seem that an immediate shift from three to two judges would be hard for the court to get used to.

We wonder if there is a more logical way to assess how many judges a county should have. Rather than by population, perhaps the average number of cases each court hears should be the rule. But such a broad change is unlikely.

If indeed an exception can be made, it has to be made quickly, because the county has to redraw district lines in time for elections this year, and qualifying ends at the end of next month.

Adams County would have to make a clear case why it should be an exception to the rule. If it can’t, as Justice Court Judge Mary Toles said, &uot;all we can do is tighten our belts.&uot;