thomastontimes.com

Short-handed, but…

Scott Ballard District Attorney

October 16, 2013

When I close my eyes and envision the perfect week of court, it looks something like this: We have a manageable number of cases on the docket. Defendants who should plead guilty have done so weeks earlier. Our major crimes are ready for trial, polished and spit-shined. After a couple of hard-fought battles, those defendants are convicted and sentenced. Then the other defendants, suddenly recognizing that they aren’t in Atlanta anymore, quit scoffing at our plea offers and accept their fate.


That’s not the type of week we just finished in Spalding.


We were short-handed. One of our new prosecutors is awaiting his Bar results—he can’t try cases by himself yet. Another prosecutor is on maternity leave. A victim advocate has just left the hospital and is in rehab. A secretary is out this week for other reasons.


The public defenders weren’t full-strength, either. One of their lawyers is now part-time and another left suddenly to take another job. And the guy who handles the cases the public defender can’t because of conflicts? He probably needed to be in the hospital, but came to court anyway.


Looming ahead of us were two weeks of court, with two judges holding court at the same time each week. And we had about 80 cases to present to the grand jury.


If you work for a business, you’ve experienced this. If you pull for a sports team, you’ve seen this. If you are a stay-at-home mom, you live this every day. You are asked to do more with less.


And you do it. So did we.


It wasn’t the perfect week of court. A lot of cases were continued. We don’t like continuances—that’s just kicking the can down the road. One glance at Congress shows you all you need to know about why that is undesirable.


But, we all pitched in. Ben Coker finished what he needed to do in Upson and came to Griffin. I came down to help. The new prosecutor put his fears aside and plunged in. One victim advocate did the work of two. Unpaid interns helped secretaries.


When the fur quit flying, we had disposed of dozens of cases. Next week our Fayetteville prosecutors, now able to catch their breath after the court they just finished, will help in Griffin.


So, it wasn’t exactly pretty. But, I am very proud to be on a team with a gritty staff that scraps and fights in the midst of adversity.


We were short in numbers, but not in heart.