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Judge Bass talks about fines with county commissioners

Grady County State Court Judge Bill Bass appeared before the Grady County Commission this week seeking the board’s consent to begin charging additional fines in State Court.
Judge Bass presented a proposed $50 fine for probationers in State Court who violate the terms of probation and have a bench warrant issued against them. In addition, a $25 per day fine will be assessed for each day probationers remain in jail due to arrest under a bench warrant.
The State Court judge also is proposing a $50 fine for failure to appear in court.
“I’m asking you to evaluate it. I’m not being underhanded, I’m just trying to put two sets of eyes on it and make sure I dot every “i” and cross every “t”,” Judge Bass said.
He added, “Some of the things I have done, although I believe justified, has brought the county in conflict and I want to avoid that as much as I can.”
The judge said without a fine as he proposes it is difficult to get some people into court.
Commissioner Charles Norton asked the judge if he required an answer from the board Tuesday night.
“The sooner the better,” Judge Bass said.
County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley asked the state court judge if the county commission was required to approve the fines and Judge Bass said he had the power to charge the fines, but some powers he had exercised had put the county “crosswise” with the state.
“If you don’t want to do it then say so. It won’t bother me,” Judge Bass said.
The judge said since the fines would come into county coffers he thought the board should be involved in the process.
“I am walking a fine line. I’m not asking you to do anything not permissible, but I haven’t done any research of the law from the county’s viewpoint,” Judge Bass said.
Commissioner Norton suggested Cauley research the proposal and to contact the legal counsel of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and bring back a recommendation to the board.
On Tuesday night, the board retreated behind closed doors with Cauley to discuss a demand letter received by the county from the Southern Center for Human Rights seeking the reimbursement of $296,711 in alleged improper “administrative fees” charged to defendants by Judge Bass over an approximately seven year period.
Previously, Judge Bass had charged defendants an administrative fee of $700 to $800 per defendant.
Judge Bass was suspended earlier this year by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission, but is back on the bench.
During the JQC hearings, Judge Bass admitted to charging the administrative fees and has since ceased to levy them.

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