County To Get 5th Judge
In light of an upcoming retirement and newly enacted legislation, Fulton County voters will have a say in 2009 in the selection of two new judges for the 39th Judicial District of the Court of Common Pleas encompassing both Fulton and Franklin counties.
Earlier this year, President Judge John R. Walker formally announced his retirement effective the conclusion of 2008. However, it is likely he will continue on for a short time in order to assist in the January 2009 trial term in Fulton County. Judge Douglas W. Herman is slated to move forward and accept the president judge position currently held by Walker.
In the meantime, House Bill 301 was introduced and with several approved modifications will allow for the election of a fifth judge next year. The original bill would have seen a fifth judge elected in 2011 and sworn into office in January 2012.
In addition to filling the two positions in 2009, fellow Court of Common Pleas Judge Carol L. Van Horn is also scheduled to appear on the ballot for retention. She first took office in 1999.
Even though Fulton County currently only has one courtroom and routinely hears Court of Common Pleas matters every Tuesday, Franklin County could encounter some space constraints with the addition of a fifth judgeship. Franklin County has only four courtrooms and is hoping to finalize plans to address needs for judge's chambers and office space for assisting staff such as a law clerk and secretary.
According to reports from the Franklin County Bar Association, approximately 150 full-time attorneys work in Franklin and Fulton counties. Any of those attorneys wishing to throw their hat into the ring for either of the two judge's positions can cross-file for the May 2009 primary election.