Though relief is not coming as soon as he would like, Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said he looks forward to the favorable chances to add needed courthouse personnel.
Darragh presented two requests last week to fund the hiring of a translator/victim witness advocate and a special assistant district attorney. Both were denied Thursday night by the Hall County Board of Commissioners.
“While the needs for a juvenile court victim witness advocate (who also speaks Spanish for the benefit of the whole office) and for a part-time hourly paid attorney to assist in Magistrate’s Court remain, I fully accept that the commission would rather wait until the budget process,” Darragh wrote in an email.
Board members expressed concerns that adding positions midyear could create budget problems down the road. Commissioners did, however, say they would likely be in favor of the hiring in the new fiscal year.
The priority proposal, Darragh said, was the victim witness advocate, who would be required to speak Spanish. The advocate would be involved with the “notification of and involvement of victims in Juvenile Court delinquency cases,” according to the proposal.
Because of the large Hispanic population in Hall County, the district attorney’s office hoped to combine the two needs in one position.
The second request focused on preliminary hearings held in the Magistrate Court.
Magistrate Court deals with committal hearings, at which a judge decides if there’s enough evidence to send a case on to Superior Court.
The district attorney’s office has had to use one of its assistant district attorneys three mornings per week when presenting the state’s evidence in these felony committal hearings.
Darragh’s newest assistant district attorney works in Magistrate Court while training, with Darragh hoping to move that attorney to the trial team before the beginning of the fiscal year.
The district attorney said he wanted “to free up the ADAs to handle the Superior Court caseloads most effectively, a better use of their time.”
In the meantime, Darragh said he will continue pursuing grant opportunities.