Valdosta Federal Courthouse Being Considered For Closure

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- Valdosta, Ga. - March 27, 2012 -

The government is considering closing five federal courthouses in Georgia including the one in Valdosta.

The federal courthouse is where federal cases in and around Valdosta are tried. It takes a case that's on a big scale to go through there, that's why it's not used as heavily as lower courts. And that's also why it's being considered for closure.

Over the phone from Washington D.C., Assistant Director of the U.S. Court Administrative Office tells Eyewitness News reporter Greg Gullberg why.

"We're at a time of unusually tight budgets. The entire federal court system is focused on cost containment and has been for several years," Sellers said.

The Judicial Conference of the United States finalized a list Thursday outlining 60 federal courts nationwide being considered "expendable". They comprise 10% of the nation's federal courts.

Five of those courts are in Georgia. They are in Valdosta, Athens, Dublin, Statesboro and Waycross.

"The reason these are reviewed is basically to under take a cost benefit analysis. What is the cost of operating these facilities versus the benefit of having them open to the public," Sellers told Gullberg

Many of the courts are in rural areas and none have a judge assigned to work in them. But of the courts on the list Valdosta is ranked number 41of 60. The rule is, the higher the number, the safer you are.

Both Valdosta and Athens are considered in the Middle District of Georgia. U-S Middle District Court Clerk Greg Leonard tells Gullberg he thinks neither of them are likely to close.

"I don't think that either Athens or Valdosta will close. We have a healthy number of criminal cases and bankruptcy cases in both divisions that we feel warrants keeping both courthouses open," Leonard said.

The short list of courthouses considered for closure will come out April 13th. Of those, definite decisions will be made in September.
If the Valdosta one closes, it's operations will be moved to Macon.

Valdosta has survived this once before in 2007. But in that year the Thomasville courthouse was voluntarily closed down.