Atlanta council members push for better court management

Atlanta City Council members asked its judges, solicitors and public defenders Friday to prepare a report in one month that outlining ways to improve court operations.

The report is in response to widespread council concerns about the impact of budget cuts during the past two years on court management. The court system's budget has been cut in half since 2008, from about $17 million to the current fiscal year budget of nearly $8.1 million.

For example, Councilman Ivory Lee Young Jr. said he witnessed two dozen traffic cases dismissed because of issues, such as police officers who didn't appear in court.

Some council members complained during Friday's three-hour work session that the solicitor and public defender offices were forced to endorse budget changes by aides to former Mayor Shirley Franklin. Some council members suggested the aides were considering plans to privatize court operations.

One former Franklin aide, David Edwards, attended the meeting and insisted in an interview that changes made to the court system made during her administration improved operations. Edwards had a report that claimed the courts lacked a proper accounting system, had too many bailiffs and judges routinely handled DUI cases with defense attorneys in chambers without transcript records.

Mayor Kasim Reed is scheduled to unveil his budget at the end of April.