The legal system of the state is made up of the third branch of government, the judiciary, and also those functions of the legal system that are under the executive branch. At the state-level, the judicial branch includes the supreme court, the Georgia Court of Appeals, the superior courts and juvenile courts. Another budget unit in this branch consists of the Judicial Council that includes a variety of functions that support court operations such as the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution, the Institute of Continuing Education, the Judicial Qualifications Council and the Resource Center. The prosecuting attorneys are also budgeted through the judicial branch.
The executive branch includes the Public Defenders Office and the Attorney General, who litigates on behalf of the state of Georgia.
In FY09, the total budget for the court system is $110 million, a 4 percent increase from FY08. The judiciary makes up a very small percent of the total budget, at 0.5 percent. The Court of Appeals received $14.7 million, a 6.8 percent increase over FY08; the Supreme Court received $8.8 million, a 1.58 percent increase; the superior courts received $63.6 million a 4.56 percent increase; and the juvenile courts received $6.6 million, a slight decrease of .18 percent. The judicial council received $16.3 million, a 0.91 percent increase. The prosecuting attorneys received $59.3 million, a 3.28 percent increase. Most of the judicial increases were salary related.
On the executive side, the public defenders received $40.4 million, a 6 percent increase over their FY08 budgeted amounts to assist with apparent backlogged capital defense cases and conflict cases. The Attorney General or the Department of Law office received $19.8 million, a 7 percent increase over FY08.
New funding appropriated for judiciary agencies
Court of Appeals
$147,900 to replace court’s docket system for electronic management
$100,000 to increase funds for Magistrate Courts judicial education
$60,000 for the Supreme Court Commission on Children, Marriage and Family Law
$31,877 to implement one new drug court
$99,828 to implement one new DUI court
$200,000 for the Ga. Courts Automation Commission for statewide standards and data sharing
Prosecuting Attorneys Council
$252,719 for continued development of a statewide case management system
1.5 million for the continuation of the Judicial Data Exchange Project
$421,722 to annualize costs of three new superior court judges in Atlanta, Alcovy and Brunswick Judicial Circuits
Legislation from the Judiciary and Special Judiciary committees
SB 1 - Sexual offenders residency restrictions — clarifies the 1,000-foot limit where offenders cannot work or live from gathering places of children
SB 88 - Strengthens rights of grandparents who care for grandchildren and gives them expanded legal authority
SB 388 - Transfers responsibility for consumer complaints regarding identity theft from the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation
HB 188 - Provides a new jury duty exemption for primary caregivers of persons over the age of six with physical or cognitive limitations which prohibit them from being left alone
HB 1346 - Creates the offense of organized retail theft having to do with the intent to sell or dispose of stolen merchandise from retail stores
Special Judiciary Committee
HB 470 - Georgia Lemon Law update that increases the weight of vehicles covered by the law to 12,000 pounds and expands the number of small car dealers that are bound by the “lemon law.” The bill also expands the “lemon law rights period” to two years or 24,000 miles of operation. HB 470 reduces manufacturers repair attempts before replacement from two times to one and strengthens the arbitration portion of the law
HB 1104 - Makes several changes in the Charitable Solicitation Law. It revises the definition of “religious organization” to comply with federal law and requires a charitable organization to provide a written contract on compensation to solicitors to the Secretary of State’s office. Exempts volunteer fire departments and rescue services receiving less than $25,000 in revenues
To learn more about these bills and other legislation passed this session, go to www.legis.state.ga.us