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Eighth district remains intact following debate

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By Susan Sharp

A plan that would have combined the Eighth Judicial District with the Seventh Judicial District is off the table.

But other parts of the state didn’t fare as well.

In February Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey put out a call for all interested parties to submit maps proposing new judicial district lines. It was the first time since 1984 that an attempt had been made to move the lines.

Among the proposed new boundaries was one that would have brought Anderson County into the Eighth Judicial District. Currently, it is a stand alone district. With  the plan Ramsey unveiled at a press conference Monday it will remain that way.

“I am relieved this plan doesn’t affect the Eighth Judicial District,” said Lori Phillips-Jones, district attorney general for the eighth district.

“Legislators exercised great restraint and the map created is of minimal harm to the public,” said Eighth Judicial District Criminal Court Judge Shayne Sexton. “But there will be districts that are greatly affected with this.”

Population, as reported in the last census, was the initial guide when it came to realigning the districts. Areas with 100,000 or more residents were slated to be  districts unto themselves. Counties with less than 100,000 residents were to be absorbed into another district.

Numerous plans were submitted to Ramsey’s office. Among the maps offered to him were several that would have made the landscape of the eighth district much different. One version suggested that Hancock and Grainger Counties join the Eighth Judicial District while another suggested these counties plus Morgan County be added to the district.

With the plan Ramsey revealed the state’s 31 districts are whittled down to 29.

This means 22 counties across eight districts will see change, according to a press release issued by Ramsey’s office. “Regional integrity, geographical boundaries and the ease of inter-county travel” were factors in the redrawing of lines, the press release said.

Another prong of the legislation is that the districts are subject to be remapped every 10 years. That means judicial boundaries could be moved in the middle of the district’s elected officials terms.

On Monday Ramsey said the maps, as drawn in 1984, were representative of the “particular politics of the time” and represented  “untenable inefficiencies.”

But  a weighted caseload study conducted in 2011-12 has been used to determine the judicial resources needed across the state.

“The judicial resources we have in the seventh and eighth districts are on target based on the workload data we have,” said Sexton. “We take care of our dockets.”