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Georgia Supreme Court Convenes in Vidalia
Monday, 11 February 2013

February 11--  It was a first for Vidalia last Friday.  The Georgia Supreme Court convened in the city's new municipal annex to hear arguments in two cases which are under appeal.

Image(L-R) In the front row, Justice Robert Benham, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein and Presiding Justice Hugh Thompson.  In the back row, (L-R) Justices Harold Melton, David Nahmias and Keith Blackwell.  The seventh justice on the court, Justice Harris Hines, did not make the trip due to illness.

"It's important I think for citizens of local communities to know there is a Supreme Court, who we are, what we do and the role we play in the judicial system," said Chief Justice Carol Hunstein.

Earlier the Chief Justice addressed the Georgia General Assemby and suggested a new approach for dealing with juveniles in trouble with the law.

"What is the best way to handle juvenile offenses.  Is it always the hammer?" she asked.

According to the Chief Justice, the curent system is not working.

"If you have gone to a juvenile prison, when you get out within three years, 65 percent, will have committed another criminal offense.  That is not a good statistic.  Something is not working.  Governor Deal is very supportive of giving local communities the opportunity to look for alternatives for juvenile offenders," she said.

Chief Justice Hunstein believes money for juvenile programs should be provided to counties instead of the state prison system.

"The perception is that if you're just tough on crime, that's going to be the answer.  It turns out, that is not the case.  The new proposal is rather than those dollars going to incarcerate a juvenile at $91,000 a year, it's better to have local community services and give those monies to the counties so they can develop programs to actually help turn these chidren's lives around," she said.

The idea to invite the Justices to Vidalia was suggested by Vidalia City Attorney Reid Threlkeld. 

ImageThey arrived in Vidalia late Thursday and had a dinner meeting with over a hundred members of the Middle Judicial Circuit Bar Association headed by Metter attorney Brent Carter shown here with the Chief Justice.

On Friday, the court attracted a full house during two hours of hearings in the new Vidalia city council chambers and then adjourned for a joint lunch meeting of the Vidalia Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions Clubs at the Vidalia Community Center. 

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