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Georgia's biggest court system has warned that a 2010 Fulton County proposal that cuts $53 million from the judicial budget could force them to shut down the courthouse, jeopardize death penalty cases and slash as many as 1,000 jobs.

Fulton County's judicial leaders declared an "economic state of emergency" and warned Wednesday that the cuts, which amount to about a fourth of Fulton County's judicial budget, would lead to drastic changes at the Fulton County Jail, the sheriff's office along with prosecutors, judges and public defenders.

"This is not something you can adjust to," said Doris Downs, the county's chief superior court judge. "This is going to dismantle the justice system."

The proposed cuts, which were released last week, are part of a spending plan that would slash the county's funding by $148.2 million in 2010. Downs and other judicial leaders said the cuts came as a surprise to them and urged commissioners to rethink the spending plan before it plunges the legal system into a "crisis."

Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves said the spending plan is still tentative and that commissioners will approve final changes in January. But he said that the judicial system will have to shoulder a portion of the cuts along with other county agencies.


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