Court Needs More Space, Staff

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn - It's standing room only in Washington County, Tennessee Sessions Court Tuesday morning. The crowd is so large it overflows into the hallway. The two current Sessions Court judges are hearing over 20,000 cases per year.

The county commission agreed to hire a third judge starting in January, but the court clerk say before court can come to order she needs at least two more staff members. "Frankly, I don't know where I will put the two new employees,? said Circuit Court Clerk Karen Guinn, ?[We're] running out of space. [We] do not have any more desks."

Down the hall, District Attorney General Tony Clark says he's also out of office space but still needs another prosecutor to handle the new court. "The only way I get an extra attorney is through the state budget,? said Clark. ?I've asked for five years."

State standards say a Sessions Court prosecutor should handle up to 200 cases per week; right now they have close to double that amount.

Clark says it forces the wheels of justice to turn too fast. "We have to have people to prosecute these cases,? says Clark. ?We are spending a minute to a minute and a half on a case. People deserve more than that."

The new court will not only distribute the case load more evenly, it's expected to keep cases from being delayed for months while waiting on an open court date.

The circuit court clerk plans to ask the county commission for two new employees and additional equipment for the third Sessions Court. It will cost close to $85,000.

A new prosecutor would have to be funded through the state budget in Nashville.

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