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Judicial commissioners come under scrutiny
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There may be two job openings for Warren County Judicial Commissioners. While two new commissioners were recently hired, a couple of old ones could be on the chopping block.
“I guess there is no easy way to say this so I’m just going to say it,” said Warren County Commissioner Ken Martin, Policy and Personnel Committee chairman. “We are having a problem with two commissioners. I don’t want anyone to lose their job, but we have to stop this.”
Judicial commissioners are responsible for the issuance of criminal arrest warrants upon funding probable cause. During a probable cause hearing, they set bail and issue mittimus (paperwork that must be signed by a judicial commissioner when an individual is picked up and brought in by an officer).
The county has eight judicial commissioners assigned to different shifts. When one is needed, the appropriate one is called to come to the jail. They are given 15 minutes to respond, unless a unforeseen problem arises.
According to Martin, one judicial commissioner is calling the E-911 Center and asking why she has been called to the jail during her shift. If the call is in regards to a mittimus, her response far exceeds the 15 minutes given.
“She is calling 911 to see if it is a mittimus,” he said. “If it is, she doesn’t go. That’s what we lock them up with. We have had instances where several hours have passed.”
Allowing several hours to pass before the correct paperwork is signed could cause legal problems for the Warren County Sheriff’s Department and Warren County government.
“I will tell you what I want to do,” said Martin. “I want to get blunt and tell her ‘you have 15 minutes to get to the jail. If it happens one more time, you’re fired.’”
Committee members verbally agreed to the decision, with Commissioner George Smartt adding, “If you are called you go. If you can’t go, then you need to go.”
The second problem involves the writing of warrants and another female judicial commissioner, says Martin.
“We had this one sent back to us from the district attorney’s office,” he said. “It has the deputy’s name in the summons area. She summoned the deputy.”
Incorrectly written warrants are a long-standing problem with this judicial commissioner. Martin says he has had several discussions with her.
“This is the same one John (Pelham, county executive) and I have had discussions with. We have talked to her about these problems. Yet, they continue to happen.”
Martin says he would like to handle this individual the same as the first.
“If we see that again, you’re fired. There is just way too much of this. She has to stop this. Even the deputy signed it, summoning himself.”
When it comes to this particular warrant, three people saw it and were supposed to read it for mistakes — the judicial commissioner, a deputy and the individual asking for the warrant.
“Three different people saw that and had an opportunity to change it. However, because it is her warrant, it is her fault. It takes about 15 seconds to proofread these things.”
A session was scheduled to discuss the situation with all the commissioners, without identifying the actual individuals at fault.
“They will know who they are,” said Martin.