published Saturday, September 14th, 2013

Southern Center for Human Rights to investigate Chattooga County

The Southern Center for Human Rights has launched an investigation into the Chattooga County, Ga., State Court system.

Sarah Geraghty, an attorney for the center, sent an open records request to the county Thursday morning, the same day the Times Free Press reported that state court officials charged defendants money -- they called it court costs -- on cases that were not prosecuted.

In a letter to County Commissioner Jason Winters and the clerk of court, Geraghty asked the county to show any documents that: allow the court to charge this money; explain how the court determined the amount to charge in each case; show how much money the court got from such cases in the last four years; and show who got this money.

In August, State Court Judge Sam Finster and State Solicitor Sanford "Buddy" Hill told the Times Free Press that they charge court costs on cases that are not prosecuted. Both said they couldn't remember exactly when they started doing this, that they began years ago. But, according to Georgia law, a court official cannot charge defendants money for their cases unless those defendants have been found guilty.

The county has three days to respond to Geraghty's letter.

Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com

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