By KEVIN DUFFY
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/28/05
A judge has ruled that Fayette County's marshals can continue to make arrests and take suspects to the county jail.
The county sued Sheriff Randall Johnson when the jail refused to accept a DUI suspect arrested by a marshal in 2003. The sheriff runs the jail.
In many communities, marshals enforce ordinances but don't make arrests.
In 1989, however, six years after the Marshal's Office was set up in Fayette, the County Commission gave its marshals arrest powers, which put them on par with deputy sheriffs.
Johnson told the commissioners two years ago the jail would not accept people arrested by the marshals.
"Marshals cannot perform duties that may be performed by a county police department," he said.
But senior Superior Court Judge William Ison ruled that the marshals' arrest powers were legitimate.
"It was never an issue until a year and a half ago," Commission Chairman Greg Dunn said. "If he [Johnson] thought it was illegal, why would he be putting them in jail all these years?
"They don't want another agency in the county with the same authority they have."
Johnson said his office was preparing a response to the ruling but wouldn't comment further.
In a related matter, Ison also ruled the county must pay for the Sheriff's Office legal expenses out of the general budget, not the sheriff's budget.
That means the sheriff's budget is due to be reimbursed more than $53,000 from the general fund.
Some of those expenses involve another legal fight. Johnson is suing the County Commission because it demanded that a building near the jail be dismantled. The Sheriff's Office had the building erected without commissioners' knowledge.