Presiding Mobile County Circuit Court judge John Lockett says Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Lyn Stuart is to blame for the layoffs and court closures that will result in delays to cases, including: civil cases, criminal cases, protection from abuse petitions, child support and custody matters.
Lockett told WALA that 14 to 16 employees in judge’s offices and court administration will be laid off by the end of September, resulting in the reduction of jury weeks from 31 to 24, and the amount of phone calls the court will take in. Additionally, starting on June 1, no one at the court will take phone calls until after 2:30 p.m., and the court will close from noon to 1 p.m.
Lockett and Circuit Court Clerk JoJo Schwarzauer say Stuart is to blame for not allocating funds to the personnel shortages in the circuit.
In a joint notice, given to members of the Mobile Bar Association, Schwarzauer and Lockett say, “despite the State Trial Court Budget receiving $2.5 million more than initially requested by the Chief Justice, we have been informed that none of this amount will be allocated to address the personnel shortages in our circuit.”
“Because we no longer have sufficient personnel to conduct our normal operations in a normal fashion, we are making some necessary changes to help the remaining clerks, the judges and judicial support staff process the thousands of filings made daily,” the release said, according to AL.com.
Lockett said the court has 19 fewer people than it needs, but Randy Helms, Administrative Office of the Courts Director paints a different picture. Helms says Lockett is getting his numbers from a survey done on court resources by the National Center for State Courts, but the survey shows deficiencies in other counties as well, some worse than Mobile’s.
“We have a system that is already bordering on collapse. I think we’re looking at a potential collapse with huge backlogs and not being able to do the people’s business simply because we don’t have the personnel to do it,” Lockett told WALA.