Fifty-three cases that normally would have been fined were thrown out by the judge in what he called a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“I’ve never done that ever,” he said. “The election was over and I thought it would be a nice gesture, sort of an amnesty thing.”
Roberts was appointed as the Walker County state court judge by Gov. Nathan Deal in September 2011. He ran for re-election in non-partisan primary on July 31 and lost to challenger Billy Mullinax.
“I can serve until December 31,” said Roberts, who reiterated that his dismissal of Friday’s cases was just a one-time action, and that traffic violators should not expect the same leniency to occur at a later date.
“People who come to Walker County should not be expecting that to ever happen again,” said Roberts.
Roberts’s actions were perfectly legal – “a judge can dismiss a case any time that they want to,” he said – though he doubts his successor will ever repeat the gesture.
“I seriously doubt that judge Mullinax will ever do that,” he said. “This was just my first arraignment after the election...I thought it would be a nice thing to do for the people.”
The cases thrown out represented a wide variety of traffic violations, including 19 speeders and 10 motorists without insurance. All 53 cases were those of violators who would have otherwise pleaded guilty; anyone who pleaded not guilty or would have needed a jury trial at a later date was not granted clemency.
Although individual monetary fines would normally have been set on a case-by-case basis by Judge Roberts and therefore the total amount of fines that will not be collected cannot be calculated, OCGA 36.15 states that the minimum court cost per case is $50. At bare minimum, $2,650 in court fines and fees will not be collected for the county. A more realistic estimate is at least twice that number.
“Every fine in Georgia has add-ons and surcharges,” said Roberts, part of which goes toward county coffers.