Augusta Courthouse Works Independently of Stauton

augusta-county-courthouse-6

Clerk of Court Carol Brydge posted Thursday on her Facebook page:

Over the next couple of days I will address a few bits of information that have been stated to the public regarding the referendum to move the County Seat to Verona, which is on the ballot for November 8.

My reason? I don’t want anyone to come to me after the vote and state, “If you knew, why didn’t you speak up?” This vote is YOUR decision based on the facts that YOU have gleaned from all presentations made.

Because I have worked with him on this issue for a long time, I know that Judge Victor Ludwig is prohibited by Judicial Ethical Canons from making public statements on political issues, and it is frustrating to me that, because of the ethical standards set for Judges, he cannot state his views on the Courthouse. He is the ONLY Judge who has been directly involved in addressing the inadequacies of the Augusta County Circuit Court and General District Courthouse. He is the ONLY Judge who has presided as Judge on a regular basis in the 1901 building AND served as an elected Judge in the District Courts (1953) building. He is the ONLY Judge who has worked with the County and City over the past five years to find a solution to the inadequacy of the Courthouse facilities, and he is the ONLY Judge who is directly responsible to ensure that the facilities are adequate for the Augusta County Courts.

Combining or consolidating the Courts (that is, having a single Court system serve both jurisdictions) has been explored by the City and County, but they could not agree how to accomplish it, and there is no indication now that the City of Staunton will have any interest in reopening negotiations if the Referendum fails.

Others have suggested that the Courts of Augusta County and the City of Staunton already operate on a “shared basis.” The fact is that they do not, nor have they ever done so. Each Circuit Court is required to have its own clerk, to maintain separate records, and to conduct all of its business independently of the other.

I cannot recall a single instance of a County Circuit case being tried in the City’s Courtroom or the reverse, and certainly there is no combining of records. If the County Circuit Court were to attempt to use a Courtroom in the City Courthouse on a regular basis, there would be significant challenges. Reserving a City Courtroom for cases would require almost constant communication between the Judges and their staffs because scheduling, continuing, and removing cases from the calendar is a fluid procedure that occurs throughout the day; conflicts would be inevitable.

Once a case was scheduled to be heard in the City Courthouse, we would have to assign Augusta County Deputies to the City building to provide security for trials (taking them away from the County building); frequently one of our deputy clerks would have to go there for the hearings and would be using equipment unfamiliar to them; and certainly litigants, witnesses and jurors would understandably be confused by being instructed to appear in the City Courthouse for a County case. Nearly every day a citizen walks into one of the Courthouses only to find that he/she is in the wrong Court.

Frequently the County Government Center receptionist calls my Clerk’s office to inquire if we are waiting on an individual to probate an estate because the individual thought the Courthouse was in the County. If there is confusion now between the Courts, shared Courts would compound that confusion.
The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts are not combined. One Clerk serves both of these Courts; however, each Court has separate staff, maintains separate records, and the appeals from each jurisdiction go to the separate Circuit Courts for the City and County.

Carol Brydge has worked in the Augusta County court system for almost three decades. She currently serves as the Clerk of Court.

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