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Renewed federal funding will help Dawson County tackle mounting case backlog
Court ARPA funds
Dawson County courts will receive federal American Rescue Plan Act funding for the second consecutive year in 2023. - photo by Julia Hansen

Dawson County will soon receive $280,000 in federal funding to boost courthouse operations amidst a case backlog made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This story continues below.

On Dec. 15, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement for the funds with neighboring Hall County, which is also a part of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit. 

The judicial circuit was recently awarded $2 million in state-dispersed American Rescue Plan Act funds for 2023. 

This is the second year the circuit has received ARPA funds after getting about $1.7 million in 2022, Court Administrator Jason Stephenson said during an October Hall County commissioners meeting covered by Times reporter Brian Wellmeier.

The money allocated to Dawson County will pay for temporary positions that will help handle the backlog and exist “as long as funds are available,” Stephenson said in an email to DCN.

As part of the efforts to boost court operations, commissioners approved a related measure to add five part-time and two full-time positions to the county’s staff and add $280,000 to the FY2023 budget. 

With tens of thousands of people walking through the Dawson County Government Center’s doors each year, ARPA funds of $76, 231 will finance a full-time DCSO courthouse deputy and up to $15, 627 in equipment to support that position. 

As well, $78, 741 will be used to pay for a full-time Treatment Services program counselor, and up to $24,000 will be used for five part-time bailiffs. 

Other planned court-related costs include up to $30,000 for additional jurors, a maximum of $35,000 for court reporter transcripts, up to $24,201 for interpreters and a maximum of $12,800 for more judicial assistance, or judges to help preside over Dawson County court proceedings.  

Dawson County will be reimbursed for these expenses using ARPA funds throughout the year. 

“These ARPA funds have been enormously helpful in tackling those challenges this year,” Stephenson said to Hall County commissioners. “The courts never shut down, but we were not able to conduct jury trials because the Georgia Supreme Court had suspended jury trials. For the criminal justice system in particular, that just meant the charges brought against defendants were never resolved.”

As of Oct. 1, Dawson County Superior Court will have 1,360 criminal, civil and domestic cases going into 2023.That caseload almost doubles when adding in 1,336 pre-indictment cases, Stephenson added.

Note: Dawson County News is a sister publication of the Gainesville Times.