By Fayette District Attorney Marie Broder
I hope everyone has managed to stay warm through the cold spell we’ve had over the past few weeks. My family was lucky enough to be in the mountains when some snow came through a few weekends ago. As snow days are far and few between, it was a joy to watch my daughter make snow angels.
Back at the office, I am hopeful that we will see some new faces in the courtroom over the next few months thanks to Governor Kemp’s plans to provide additional funding to district attorneys’ offices throughout the state.
In September, Governor Kemp announced that he would collaborate with the judicial branch and law enforcement to address, among other things, case backlogs caused by the pandemic.
For some context, you will often hear me discuss the issue of “backlog,” which refers to the volume of cases in the system that have not been resolved by a trial, plea, or dismissal.
The pandemic caused our backlog to increase significantly because no trials were being held. More often than not, an upcoming trial is a motivator for the case to resolve. Without that incentive in place, many cases remained in limbo.
My office worked diligently during the pandemic to make sure that our office would not be the reason that any cases languished. We charged and indicted many cases to push them to the stage of a case where the matter was now in the court’s hands and the next and final step would be a trial.
Even with those efforts, there remains a need for more prosecutors to assist in helping to resolve the cases that accumulated during the pandemic. Unfortunately, our circuit saw an uptick in crime during the pandemic, as did most every community across the state. This increase in crime came after many years of declining violent crime in our communities.
To address this issue, the Governor has allocated $110,000,000 across the state to fund, among other things, additional courtroom staff, prosecutors, and public defenders. These funds will be allocated through a grant application process.
As a refresher, the District Attorney’s Office is funded by three separate sources: the state, Fayette, Spalding, Pike, and Upson counties, and grants through the federal government. The state funds the salary of the district attorney and a limited number of positions.
The counties fund other assistant district attorney positions, as well as the majority of the administrative staff. The federal government, through grant programs that allocate funds to specific purposes, pay for some positions as well. For example, our office receives a grant funded through the Violence Against Women Act, whose focus is on domestic violence.
While there are no guarantees that the new grants will be awarded, I could not pass on an opportunity for additional help in serving our community. I am pleased to report that I have already applied for funding to pay three temporary prosecutors to assist my current assistant district attorneys in further reducing any backlog and making our community safer.
If successful, we will be further poised to tackle the challenges created by the pandemic and continue my goal of bringing swift justice to those who break the law. Until next time, stay warm and please be kind to one another!
[Marie Broder has served as the Griffin Judicial Circuit district attorney since 2020. She resides in Griffin.]