Monday, May 29, 2006

Court Commissioner Hiring in Progress:

Court commissioner hiring process on track
By Jim Collar of The Northwestern

Concerns about potential backlogs and delays in the local court system appear to have been alleviated.

Winnebago County is now in the process of seeking out a new court commissioner, as a position will open once Karen Seifert takes the bench in Circuit Court Branch Four in August. Just weeks ago, the county judiciary was prohibited from advertising and filling the job opening until the County Board of Supervisors tackled the 2007 budget.

Judges feared the delay would significantly slow access to the courts given an already understaffed courthouse.

They now hope to hire in June.

Judge Scott Woldt said that if all goes to plan, a new court commissioner should be able to step in once Seifert puts on her black robe. Time remains of the essence, as any private attorney hired for the position would have to close his or her practice.

"That's why we started now," Woldt said.

Court commissioners are hired by the county to handle certain hearings and duties including family court, juvenile hearings, bond hearings and preliminary hearings. They don't have the full authority of judges, who are employees of the state.

County Executive Mark Harris initially chose against filling the vacant position until the county could assess all of its needs in what is expected to be a painful 2007 budget process.

While the county board couldn't prematurely designate funds for the position next year, supervisors did vote this month to seek a new commissioner and support the position for next year.

Woldt said the vote of confidence should allow the county to find qualified candidates. Harris concurred.

"We got what we needed and that was a commitment from the board," Harris said.


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