Sumner County's Juvenile Court docket is so full the presiding judge has to set some cases for after the first part of 2013.
Sumner County General Sessions Judge Barry Brown said that backlog possibly puts children in danger and delays decisions in sensitive cases involving families.
“My cases have gone from 30 minutes to lasting four or five days now,” he said. “That is just too long for a child not to know where he/she is going to live or whether the child is in danger or anything.”
Judge Brown said an increase in drug cases has forced more families into his court room.
He said specifically the rise in use of bath salts and other synthetic drugs are impacting his docket.
“I think they are having a lot more problems,” he said. “The parents are having a major problem with that just like that kids are now.”
He also said more the number of the Department of Children Services cases he hears has increased.
Judge Brown presides over cases involving neglect and child abuse.
Another factor in the back log is the number of attorneys who now represent people dealing with juvenile court. That is a stark difference from when he took the bench 26 years ago.
“Back when I first became a judge we couldn't get a lawyer to come to court,” he said. “Now it seems like we are going 25 to 30 lawyers every docket.”
The judge made a request to the Sumner County Commission to make the current part time magistrate position a full time position in the county's 2012-2013 county budget.
The part time magistrate currently hears truancy and runaways. As a full time magistrate the person would hear the same cases Judge Brown presides over in his court room.
The proposal is expected to get approval from the full Sumner County Commission when the commission votes on the general budget, Monday.
“I am hoping now that we are getting a full time magistrate it will give me more time to hear those cases,” Judge Brown said. “One of the major things about children is stability what is six months for me and you may not be the same thing for a child.”
He continued, “That's four life times.”
Sumner County Executive Anthony Holt supports adding the position. The position is expected to cost the county between $70,000 and $75,000 including required health insurance and retirement benefits.
“If we can, it is much more effective to try to straighten someone's life out when they are younger,” Holt said. “We want to see young people in this county, and across the state of Tennessee, grow up to be productive citizens.”
The Sumner County Commission meets Monday at 5:30 p.m. The commission is expected to pass the general budget, but may not have a final vote on the budget for Sumner County Schools.
The final version of the schools budget is still pending.