Fight over Mobile court funding heats up

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(IMG: WPMI){ }Fight over Mobile court funding heats up

The fight over court funding in Mobile County is heating up. NBC 15 broke this story last week and now we are learning just how short staffed the Circuit Court Clerks office really is.

It's a fight over court funding that reached a tipping point after accused meth trafficker Mandy Brady was released on bond by mistake. Judge James Patterson says the mistake was made because the Mobile County Circuit Clerk's Office is 20 people short due to lack of funding and layoffs.

"It's frankly starting to impact public safety," says Judge Patterson.

Patterson saying enough is enough. He says the clerk's office needs more people and more money. He issued an order to withhold 10% of the court fees and costs -- that's roughly $700,000 to hire staff.

"I, for one, intend to do something about it," says Judge Patterson.

The staffing shortage combined with a bloated court docket is creating serious backlog issues as well. A newly-released court document reveals Mobile County Circuit Courts had more than 26,000 cases in 2016 giving each of the county's 11 judges nearly 2,400 cases each year.

Compare that with Jefferson County, which had 5,000 fewer court cases spread among 23 judges.

"It just blows me away that this situation even exists," says Judge Patterson.

Patterson says the Circuit Clerk's office is "imminent danger" of not fulfilling its statutory duties to support the courts because of inadequate funding.

The Attorney General is opposing Patterson's court fee order.