CASE ASSIGNMENT SYSTEMS
FOR SUPERIOR COURT OF LIBERTY COUNTY

The Superior Court of Liberty County implemented a case assignment system for civil cases in 2003 and a criminal case assignment system in 2007. Civil and criminal cases are assigned at random to one of the four superior court judges of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit at the time of filing. The following amended order is adhered to by the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court of Liberty County for assigning superior court cases.



IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LIBERTY COUNTY
STATE OF GEORGIA

AMENDED ORDER


In Re: Methodology for Assigning Civil and Criminal Cases

General Provisions.

        Pursuant to U.S.C.R. 3.1, (1) effective July 1, 2003 all civil cases and (2) effective January 1, 2008 all criminal cases filed in the Superior Court of Liberty County shall be assigned by the Clerk of the Superior Court (hereinafter referred to as "Clerk") and/or the Clerk's staff on a rotational basis for the purpose of maintaining equal numerical distribution of civil and criminal cases to the superior court judges of said court.
        The case-assignment system employed by the Clerk shall be designed to prevent any person from choosing the judge to whom an action shall be assigned. The Clerk and/or the Clerk's staff shall not have any discretion in determining the judge to whom any case is assigned, except as provided herein regarding assignment of actions involving substantially the same parties, substantially the same subject matter or substantially the same factual issues pursuant to U.S.C.R. 3.2. The Clerk's duties relative to case assignment are ministerial only and the Clerk's and his staff's responsibility is solely to carry out the method of assignment established by the court. The Clerk may utilize either a manual or electronic (computer-based) system for equitably assigning cases, such system to be designed by the Clerk. The manner and methodology employed by the Clerk for assigning cases shall ensure that attorneys or parties do not know in advance of filing to which judge a case is assigned.
        All persons are hereby directed to refrain from attempting to affect such assignment in any manner.

Assignment of Civil Cases Requiring Emergency/Ex Parte Hearing.

        When a civil case requiring an emergency/ex parte hearing is filed, any of the four superior court judges of the court shall be authorized to conduct such hearing, depending upon the circumstances affecting such case. However, to ensure equitable distribution of the civil caseload assigned to each judge, the Clerk shall assign such cases in conformity with the case-assignment rotation system approved herein, even though another superior court judge may have conducted an emergency/ex parte hearing prior to assignment.

Assignment of Existing Unassigned Cases

Civil Cases.

        Any civil case filed prior to July 1, 2003 shall be assigned to the superior court judge that last presided over such case (i.e., the judge that last conducted a hearing or trial for a case or, in the instance wherein multiple judges have conducted hearings, to the judge that conducted the majority of hearings, etc.), provided, however, that the Clerk shall distribute the pending caseload so that the four superior court judges are assigned approximately the same number of cases.

Criminal Cases.

All criminal cases, including those already pending on this date, shall be assigned by the Clerk and his staff in an equitable manner.[1]
Assignment of criminal matters by the Clerk shall occur when a criminal warrant is filed with the Clerk or when an accusation or indictment is filed with the Clerk, whichever occurs first, as follows:
1.       When a criminal warrant is filed with the Clerk against an accused prior to indictment or accusation (as required by U.S.C.R.), the Clerk and/or his staff shall manually or electronically cause the warrant to be assigned a pre-indictment case number and to be randomly assigned to a superior court judge as provided herein for assignment of civil cases. When multiple warrants are filed against an accused or for more than one accused for criminal offenses occurring at the same, arising out of the same offense(s), or for criminal offenses occurring at the proximate time or out of similar transactions, all warrants shall be assigned the same case number and to the same judge.
2.       When an accusation or indictment is filed with the Clerk against an accused for which a warrant has not been filed with the Clerk previously, the Clerk and/or his the Clerk's staff shall manually or electronically cause the accusation or indictment to be assigned a regular criminal case number and to be randomly assigned to a superior court judge as provided herein for assignment of civil cases. When an accusation or indictment includes more than one accused, the accusation or indictment shall be assigned the same case number and to the same judge.
3.       The Clerk shall ensure that method of assigning cases in 1 and 2 above ensures an equitable distribution of criminal cases to the superior court judges on the basis of offense type, as follows:
 
a.       Cases involving offenses delineated in O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.1 as the "seven deadly sins" shall be identified by the Clerk, either electronically and manually, and shall be assigned on a random basis ensuring an equitable distribution of such cases; and
b.       Cases not involving offenses delineated in O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.1 as the "seven deadly sins" shall be identified by the Clerk, either electronically and manually, and shall also be assigned on a random basis ensuring an equitable distribution of such cases.

Control and Transferal of Cases After Assignment

        Pursuant to U.S.C.R. 3.3, the judge to whom any action is assigned shall have exclusive control of such action and no person shall change an assignment except by order of the judge affected. In this regard, an assigned judge may transfer an assigned action to another judge with the latter's consent, in which event the latter becomes the assigned judge. The Clerk and/or his staff shall be notified in writing of any change of assignment by the judge transferring such case.

Assignment of Similar Actions and/or Parties

        Pursuant to U.S.C.R. 3.2, when practical and upon being provided notice by counsel in advance of filing, all actions involving substantially the same parties, or substantially the same subject matter, or substantially the same factual issues, whether pending simultaneous or not, shall diligently try to ensure that such actions are assigned to the same judge. The Clerk shall endeavor to assign such actions to the judge to whom a case was originally assigned whenever such action is filed or re-filed, or when a derivative or companion action is filed or re-filed.

        SO ORDERED on this 9th day of November 2007.

David L. Cavender
Chief Judge
Superior Court of Liberty County



[1] Judges Cavender and Russell will hear criminal non-jury cases regardless of assignment from January 1, 2008 to July 1, 2008, unless there is a motion that should be heard by the assigned judge.