Judge: Another Constable Needed At Athens County Courthouse

Posted on:

< < Back to

The Athens County court system is in need of an additional constable, the county commissioners were told Tuesday by Common Pleas Judge George McCarthy.

“We’ve been working on a three-person system now, and we’re just scraping by,” said McCarthy, who is administrative judge for common pleas court.

Currently, there are three constables, who are responsible for security at the Courthouse and Courthouse annex, including screening all members of the public who enter the Courthouse. The constables also transport prisoners from the sheriff’s office to the two common pleas courtrooms, municipal court and juvenile court, and stay with the prisoners while they are in court. They perform a variety of other tasks.

McCarthy said it is sometimes difficult to perform the transport duties while maintaining the Courthouse screening, and he said having a sufficient number of constables to transport prisoners is a safety issue.  At times additional people, including reserve sheriff’s deputies, are called upon to help. McCarthy said reserve sheriff’s deputies are not paid when they help out, and they prefer to work at events where they get paid.

“We’ll have to think about it — how we want to go,” said Commission President Lenny Eliason.

Eliason questioned whether the constables (who hold law enforcement commissions) should be made part of the sheriff’s office. That would allow the sheriff to coordinate the use of reserve deputies when needed for constable duties, he said.

McCarthy expressed concern that a sheriff could decide the sheriff’s office had a more-pressing need and pull the constables for other duties.

Commissioner Charlie Adkins said the success of having the sheriff in charge of the constables could depend on who is serving as sheriff, with Adkins saying he could see it being a problem — although not with acting Sheriff Rodney Smith.

After the meeting, Eliason estimated it would cost about $40,000 in salary and benefits to hire another constable. Eliason said he sees several options, including the hiring of a constable, working with the sheriff to provide more help from reserve deputies or turning the constables over to the sheriff’s office.

There also was brief discussion of possibly doing arraignments by video, which Adkins said would save the cost of the sheriff’s department transporting prisoners from jail or prison to be arraigned in court. McCarthy said it is not commonly done in felony cases, but it’s something that could be considered.

McCarthy also told the commissioners that fees for civil cases will likely be increased this month to better help the court system recoup costs. The proposed increases range from $24 to $99, depending on the type of case. The largest increase would be in the $401 filing fee for foreclosure actions, which would increase to $500.
He also told the commissioners there are new state-mandated fees of $26 in domestic cases and $15 in juvenile court cases that go into effect March 23. The money will help fund the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation.