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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Lawrence County Justice Study: Judge Bob Cline Justice Center Should Be Reviewed

LAWRENCE COUNTY - (December 2, 2021) - The coverage of the Lawrence County Justice Study over our series of reports we have looked at the reasoning for a proposed new jail, comments from Lawrence County Judges John Plummer III, and Nathan Nikirk.

In today's series we look at Superior Court II Judge Bob Cline view on Lawrenc County's Justice system.

In his comments Cline suggests that a comprehensive justice center should be reviewed. This would place the courts, jail, public defender and prosecutor into one building.

"This would maximize efficiency, provide better service to the public, reduce risk of escape from inmate transport. Currently, Lawrence County uses several facilities for courts, jail, public defender's office and prosecutor," said Cline.

Former Judge William Sleva suggested proposed placing a fourth court in the Courthouse Plaza,at that location. A grant by Judge Nathan Nikirk was obtained to conduct a study and provide a plan to convert a vacant office space into the new court.

However, the Lawrence County Commissioners has rejected all bids of this proposal and the commissioners has since authorized that the voter registration be moved into the vacant location at the Courthouse Plaza.

The current public defender's office is located on Mitchell Road in the Dunn Plaza owned by Lawrence County.

In 1990, Lawrence Superior Court was in the basement of the current Lawrence County Jail, originally plans were to reduce the issues of transporting inmates from the Lawrence County Jail to the courts.

(In 1990, Lawrence County Superior Courts were located on the bottom floor to save the expense of transporting inmates to and from court)

The Superior Courts are now located at Courthouse Plaza, inmates are now transported for their trials to this location.

Cline himself has also tried to improve efficiency making operational changes for public defenders' cases. Cline states he likes to see the person in court that day.

According to Cline in the past a attorney could fill out a form. " Having the person present allows me to closely monitor the case and ensure sufficient communication is taking place between the public defender and the defendant," said Cline.

Cline also states he has a priority to resolve petition to revoke probation for technical violations, which normally are resolved in under two weeks, with the person being released from custody.

" I review the reverse chronological order jail list on a daily basis, and identify anomalies and the reasons why, and resolve them as necessary," said Cline.

Cline also feels that digital discovery, and plea offers from the state should be provided immediately upon the appointment from the prosecutor's office.

The increase in pay for public defenders coinciding with better client services, such as jail visits, effective communication, and experienced lawyers.

Court staff, especially the head court reporter, have to be adequately compensated to ensure the highest efficiency.

It should be noted that the Lawrence County Council voted on the 2022 Budget to include better wages for the Lawrence County court staff. The Lawrence County Council has also approved wage increases for the public defender's office and new hires to improve a back-log of cases.

In order to keep jail numbers under control during the pandemic In-Patient Treatment program was heavily utilized and this may be expanded with other treatment programs including a potential work-release program.

Cline was instrumental in establishing the Veterans Court which has been approved and being developed. The Lawrence County Prosecutor's office also has a pre-trial diversion program for low-level misdemeanor cases.

Lawrence County Zephyr will continue to provide information from the release of the Lawrence County Justice Study. Lawrence County Sheriff Mike Branham has requested a committee of three people to continue to look at issues surrounding the Lawrenc County Justice Study.

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