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April 25, 2012 | 08:43 AMELKHORN — Walworth County Circuit Judge David Reddy proposed a plan by which the county could maintain its OWI court and begin the process of adding a drug court by 2013.
Reddy made his proposal at the April 13 Walworth County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee.
The committee, made up of county officials and criminal justice professionals, proposes policies and procedures for the county criminal justice system.
Judge Robert Kennedy currently runs the OWI court, which was started in October last year after nearly two years of staff study and training.
The program takes drunken drivers out of the jail and Huber dorm and puts them through a program that can lead to recovery and self-reliance.
The program, which applies mostly to third-time offenders, is reducing the population pressure in the jail, effectively pushing back the date when the county will have to either expand the existing jail or build a new one.
Although participants spend a few days in jail, they are returned to the community wearing electronic monitoring devices that alert jail staff to where they are at any time during the day, and can even detect if they've been drinking alcohol.
But Kennedy is retiring in July.
Reddy will take over the OWI court, but the county was also planning to start a drug court for those arrested for possession of controlled substances.
Reddy told the committee he plans to take over the OWI court during the next rotation of judges on Oct. 1, and will preside over the OWI court from October 2012 to August 2013.
Judge James Carlson has announced his interest in taking over the OWI court after Reddy's rotation, which would give Reddy a chance to get the drug court up and running.
"It's not going to be right away, it's going to be a year from August," Reddy said of starting the drug court.
The plan is going to need the cooperation of the judges involved, the district attorney, defense attorneys, treatment professionals, the probation department and law enforcement, Reddy said.
Kennedy had proposed that he return as a reserve judge to run the OWI court while Reddy laid the groundwork for the staff training necessary to get the drug court in operation.
Kennedy said he'd be willing to work on the OWI court for no pay.
As a reserve judge, he would have the authority to hand down penalties to those in the OWI program who violated the rules of the court.
Kennedy said earlier that the advantage to having a reserve judge run the OWI court is that the program would no longer have a trial judge running it.
That would allow the circuit court to free up its calendar to set up the drug court.
Kennedy has said that although the OWI and drug courts run on the same principle, a court supervised program that keeps offenders out of jail, the two programs are very different in the kinds of treatments they offer.
Kennedy is a strong supporter of the OWI court. He said that he's seen the court program is changing offenders' behaviors.
If he is not allowed to come back as a reserve judge, Kennedy suggested he be called back by the county as a court commissioner.
However, in a memo to County Administrator David Bretl, Andrew M. Graubard, district court administrator for the state's second judicial circuit, confirmed that it would be impossible for Kennedy to work as a reserve judge for free.
"I wish I had better news for you, as I know this would be a big help to Walworth County, but … the position of judge, including reserve judge, is statutorily defined and per statute, must be paid from out appropriations, which are state appropriations," Graubard stated in the e-mailed memo.
While Kennedy might return as a court commissioner, a commissioner doesn't have the judicial authority necessary to run an OWI court, Graubard said.
Graubard also pointed out that a retiring judge must be separated from employment with the state for 30 days (and that might be changed to 75 days by the Legislature) prior to even discussing a reserve judge or (court) commissioner appointment, or else the retiring judge could be subject to a loss of retirement annuity.
"I'm afraid we'll just have to let you enjoy your retirement judge," Bretl said to Kennedy.
Or maybe not.
The drug court training program grant needs a grant coordinator.
However, the grant coordinator, who has to write, submit and track the grant, does not get paid unless and until the grant is approved, Bretl said.
The county may yet turn to Kennedy to be the grant writer and coordinator for the drug court. Kennedy said he might be a willing volunteer for that position, so long as it doesn't take up more than 15 hours a week.
Bretl said the judges should be ready to ask for help if the grant process proves to be too much for one person, or requires more time than a volunteer might be willing to give.
"Don't do it on the cheap," Bretl said. "If you need to hire somebody, tell me."