District attorneys, public defenders and a few legislators in a local area that will be heavily affected by a proposed judicial redistricting plan say changes are not needed. Many question Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s motives.
“This is not about courts; it’s about politics,” said 31st District Public Defender Dan Bryant. “If something’s not broke, why do you have to fix it?”
In 2009 the state commissioned an outside study to see if redistricting was needed. The report concluded it was unnecessary.
What’s changed since the report, Bryant said, is the makeup of the General Assembly.
“Something has changed,” he said. “The Republicans have a super majority.”
Under Ramsey’s proposal, Bryant’s district of Warren and Van Buren counties will merge with Coffee and Cannon counties to form the 14th Judicial District.
Currently, Coffee is a stand-alone district and Cannon is part of a two-county district with Rutherford County. Under the new plan, Rutherford, which has had the largest population increase since the last district lines were drawn in 1984, will be a one-county district.
Ramsey’s original plan called for a statewide reworking of all 31 districts, but political negotiations led to a compromise that would reduce the number from 31 to 29. The lieutenant governor claims the new plan will save $600,000 annually.
Ramsey’s office did not return multiple messages seeking comment last week.
But state Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, whose legislative district includes Warren County, finds Ramsey’s logic difficult to understand.
“What interests me is right now we’re looking at charter schools and vouchers because ‘smaller is better,'” he said.
Some districts will get larger, causing delayed hearings and reduced services, he said.
“Politics should have no play in our justice system,” Curtiss said.
Even some of Ramsey’s fellow Republicans oppose the proposed changes.
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