Hamilton County’s four judicial commissioners, hired last year to handle tasks such as setting bonds and signing arrest warrants, must reapply and interview again for their jobs next month, a panel agreed Wednesday.
“I expected (to reapply) since it was just a one-year contract,” said Yolanda Mitchell, the county’s chief judicial commissioner.
Members of the County Commission’s Security and Corrections and Legal and Legislative committees said Wednesday the current crop of judicial commissioners, often called magistrates, has had fewer problems than previous groups. Along with Ms. Mitchell, the magistrates are Larry Ables, Bob Meeks and Marty Lasley.
Their contracts expire Oct. 31. Commissioners tentatively agreed to hold interviews for the positions on Oct. 1.
“I really haven’t heard any complaints,” said Commissioner John Allen Brooks of the current magistrates.
The main problem with previous magistrates — bonds being set too high or too low — has not come up, Commissioner Larry Henry said.
Last year’s revisions to the magistrate program included reducing terms from four years to one, increasing magistrates’ pay and giving more authority to the chief magistrate.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
Hamilton County’s judicial commissioners, often called magistrates, perform limited judicial duties such as setting bonds and signing arrest warrants. They work mostly on nights and weekends, when General Sessions judges are not available.
On Wednesday, the panel agreed that magistrates, who are considered full-time employees, should have a two-year term and added that to the resolution on which county commissioners later will vote.
Mr. Brooks said he’d like to leave the magistrates as they are, though he did say he would like to see new technologies, such as video arraignments, used in sessions court.
Ms. Mitchell said that vote of confidence was encouraging.
Commissioner Bill Hullander said he is supportive of the magistrates, but he would like to see their work schedules. He said he does not expect much need for part-time magistrates except for times when the four full-time judicial commissioners are on vacation.
The county now uses several part-time magistrates to take over when the full-time commissioners are not available.
The chief magistrate makes $63,000 per year, while the other three make $58,000 each. The commission added $126,000 to the county budget last year to pay for the judicial commissioners’ salaries.