COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County commissioners’ decision to request a split from the two-county Alcovy Judicial Circuit and establish its own circuit came as a surprise to District Attorney Randy McGinley.
McGinley, whose office oversees the prosecution of all cases in the Superior Courts of Newton and Walton counties, said no one reached out to discuss the resolution before it was placed on Tuesday’s agenda, and he was upset with how the entire process unfolded.
“I’m disappointed in how on the day of the meeting the resolution was put on the agenda,” McGinley said. “To my knowledge, and I can’t speak for others, but I wasn’t consulted … none of the agencies involved on the criminal side was consulted in the decision.”
Before commissioners voted 3-2 (Stan Edwards and Ronnie Cowan opposed) Tuesday night to formally request state legislators create a bill to OK the split, Chairman Marcello Banes said “now is the perfect time.” He pointed to increased population and case load as leading factors in the decision to put the item on the agenda. Banes also said he’s heard several requests to create a Newton-only circuit “throughout the community.” He said there was no ulterior motive.
Though he hasn’t seen official numbers from the civil side, McGinley believed the criminal case load was not too much for his staff to manage. He said there were 61 total employees between the district attorney offices in Newton and Walton.
“One thing I think they mentioned was about the circuit being busy,” McGinley said. “All courts are busy … but I think we’re well staffed and more than equipped to handle it.”
Superior Court judges and the district attorney must win a majority of the total votes cast in both counties to earn election. McGinley was elected to his position Nov. 3 by winning the majority of votes overall, but he did not win Newton County’s majority.
“I was elected to serve as district attorney with votes from both counties,” McGinley said. “I stand ready and will continue to serve both counties for as long as I’m allowed.”
McGinley later released a lengthy statement Friday evening:
Alcovy Chief Superior Court Judge John Ott declined The Covington News’ request for comment.
The Newton commissioners’ resolution now awaits consideration from state legislators.