published Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Commission debates magistrate plan

by Dan Whisenhunt
Audio clip

Richard Casavant

A request to appoint some on-call magistrates has drawn the ire of some Hamilton County commissioners, who say they're worried about the cost of the magistrate program.

Magistrates oversee bond hearings and sign search and arrest warrants, according to Chief Judicial Commissioner Larry Ables, who oversees the other magistrates.

Mr. Ables asked the commission to appoint two on-call magistrates who wouldn't work unless one of the county's four other magistrates is out. The on-call magistrates would be paid only when they worked and wouldn't earn benefits, he said.

Commissioners discussed the proposal at their regular meeting on April 15. Commissioner Richard Casavant compared it with the film "The Blob," saying the program continues to grow.

In 2007, the commission increased the number of magistrates from three to four to cover any absences that might occur because of vacation or illness.

Commissioner Larry Henry, chairman of the commission's Security and Corrections Committee, said the panel will meet this morning to discuss Mr. Ables' request. He said the addition of an on-call magistrate isn't really an addition.

"Essentially, that alternate has been there all along," Mr. Henry said. "This is about replacing the on-call alternate. It's strictly on call."

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Hamilton County eyes shift in hours for magistrate hours

Article: Hamilton County Commission reviewing magistrates program

about Dan Whisenhunt...

Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...

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