Naming new judicial center sparks debate

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Another rift is forming on the Augusta Commission, this time over a proposal to name the new courthouse after John H. "Jack" Ruffin Jr., a civil rights attorney who went on to be chief judge of the state Court of Appeals.

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The new federal judicial center at the corner of Walton Way and James Brown Boulevard is expected to be completed in December 2010.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
The new federal judicial center at the corner of Walton Way and James Brown Boulevard is expected to be completed in December 2010.

Commissioner Corey Johnson, who put the idea forward at last week's Public Safety committee meeting, and Commissioner Calvin Holland, who chairs the committee, both say they believe all five black commissioners will vote for it.

But Commissioner Jimmy Smith said he doesn't think it will get the necessary sixth vote and wishes Mr. Johnson would take it off today's agenda.

"I don't think it could pass," he said. "To me, if it doesn't pass, it would look bad for the judge."

Both he and Commissioner Jerry Brigham said Monday that the building shouldn't be named for anyone and should rather be called the Augusta Judicial Center.

"That's what we've always called it, that's what it's always called everywhere else in the state," Mr. Brigham said. "A judicial center is a place where everybody's going to get justice. It's not a place to honor a particular person, in my mind."

Mr. Holland said there's a first time for everything. He believes a commission vote last year signaled a desire to name the building after someone.

On Nov. 5, former Coliseum Authority member J.R. Riles went before the commission suggesting the judicial center be named for Judge Ruffin -- the first black member of the Augusta Bar Association, the first black Augusta Superior Court judge and the first black Court of Appeals chief judge.

Mr. Johnson made a motion to do so, seconded by Mr. Holland; but Don Grantham proposed a substitute motion, seconded by Mr. Brigham, to do more research. The substitute motion passed 8-1, with Mr. Holland opposing.

Mr. Holland had that section of the Nov. 5 meeting's minutes attached to today's agenda. According to the minutes, Mr. Grantham said he was in "very much in favor of Judge Ruffin," but wanted to give others a chance to make recommendations.

"Here it is, almost another year, and no one has come up with a name," Mr. Holland said.

Mr. Johnson said he doesn't understand how anyone could oppose his plan, what with the jail being named for former Sheriff Charles Webster and a water treatment plant off Tobacco Road for former Utilities director Max Hicks.

"I don't see why it should be a problem," he said. "I think even the former mayor, Bob Young, is in support of it."

Mr. Young, who proposed naming the judicial center after Judge Ruffin in a March 2008 letter to the editor published in The Augusta Chronicle , said Monday that he can imagine why someone might oppose the idea.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the white commissioners are going to try to use that as leverage to get a black commissioner to vote for the (trade, exhibit and event) center," he said. "It would seem more politically-driven to me than personality driven. And it's really sad."

Both Mr. Brigham and Mr. Smith denied their positions have to do with the gridlock over the TEE center. Each said they would be willing to name a courtroom after the judge.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

The Judicial Center

NEARING COMPLETION: The judicial center is about 95 percent complete, though it's 10 months into a 24-month schedule, Senior Project Manager John Lukens, of Potts Company, said Monday. The most time-consuming phase will be the interior finishing.


UNDER BUDGET: The building was projected to cost $67 million, and Mr. Lukens said Potts is on target to come in $1.5 million below budget. He expects to be finished in December 2010, about two months ahead of schedule.


WHAT'S NEXT: The tower crane will be coming down this week, windows will start going in, and on Nov. 6 the company will hold a "Topping Out Celebration," a barbecue at noon to celebrate the building reaching its maximum height.

Special meeting called

Before today's 2 p.m. commission meeting, City Administrator Fred Russell will present a proposed 2010 budget in a 1:30 p.m. special-called meeting.


Commissioner Jerry Brigham said he has been told the budget has a significant revenue shortfall that would require a millage rate increase, unless services can be cut.

Comments (68) Add comment
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thewiz0oz
9
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thewiz0oz 10/20/09 - 12:39 am
0
0
Only one Augustan & one

Only one Augustan & one Georgian of the 20th Century served on the U.S. Supreme Court -- and he grew up next to the house occupied by the Wilson family who had a son named Woodrow -- and the two boys played baseball together in downtown Augusta --both houses still stand on 7th Street -- and this lawyer served on the Georgia Supreme Court prior to being appointed by President Taff, a Republican this Georgia judge who was a Democrat. Can anybody say Joseph Lamar? If the new Judicial Center is to carry an individual's name none is more fitting than is Lamar's - if not - then it should be a name reflecting our city's name.

Dixieman
15006
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Dixieman 10/20/09 - 01:26 am
0
0
The only way the Commission

The only way the Commission will ever get a unanimous vote is for someone to nominate an Asian's name, then they will all vote against it! They are a terrible useless bunch of clowns who give Augusta a really bad name.

jsherrill
0
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jsherrill 10/20/09 - 03:26 am
0
0
The Augusta Commission could

The Augusta Commission could not decide how to get out of a room with only one door an no windows.

Riverman1
84132
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Riverman1 10/20/09 - 03:57 am
0
0
If NO name can be agreed on,

If NO name can be agreed on, this could get funny. The No Name Judicial Center? Maybe it will come down to just using the address of where it is, but that's going to start another fight. Where is it located on Walton Way or James Brown Blvd? Hilarious. Just name it after Ruffin and get the thing opened.

justus4
101
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justus4 10/20/09 - 04:51 am
0
0
The commissioner's statement
Unpublished

The commissioner's statement "...it would look bad for the judge." What thought process went into that one? The judge's record stands alone. His outstanding performance on the bench speaks for itself. It can't be harmed because some backwoods, hillbillie, elected officials can't recognize selfless service. In fact, it's just the opposite: Not supporting the proposal make those commissioners appear prejudice AND dishonest. Further, that the attitudes of the non-minority commissioners are a byproduct of the attempted bribery scheme. (can't wait to hear the snake oil attached to that investigation) This is their attempt to "get back" at those who exposed the crime and will support nothing that is positive. They should vote, then have the mayor break the tie. Then, the "No" votes should be justified with written statements... and "I don't like people of color" should not be accepted.

bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 10/20/09 - 04:59 am
0
0
I hear your violins

I hear your violins justus.........................some cheese?

WhippingPost
1
Points
WhippingPost 10/20/09 - 05:07 am
0
0
What's with the commission?

What's with the commission? They seem like half of the posters on this site. It's always about skin color. Maybe it's genetic. If you're from the Augusta area, you've got a skin color gene.

55 F-100
1
Points
55 F-100 10/20/09 - 05:57 am
0
0
The name should be

The name should be "Augusta-Richmond County Federal Judicial Center" pure and simple.

omnomnom
3964
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omnomnom 10/20/09 - 06:33 am
0
0
we could take a cue from a

we could take a cue from a silly elementary school and be the first city in the nation to name our judicial center after our beloved embattled president... Hey at least we'd be featured on CNN for something other than a guy driving his SUV through the mall. Besides, think of all the tourists who would stop to get their picture taken in front of it! Aha, just kidding guys. I say get a corporate sponsorship. Waste Management Inc. would be perfectly ironic.

concernednative
28
Points
concernednative 10/20/09 - 06:39 am
0
0
It may not be worth the fight

It may not be worth the fight with all the division it will cause. I mean it will give the AC a week to run stories about race which they so love.

TroubIe
0
Points
TroubIe 10/20/09 - 06:42 am
0
0
"They should vote, then have

"They should vote, then have the mayor break the tie. Then, the "No" votes should be justified with written statements... and "I don't like people of color" should not be accepted"..........but justus, you would not accept any other reason either, that is the only reason in the world that you would accept for someone voting against a black man, even one with an extensive criminal background.........

catfish201
0
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catfish201 10/20/09 - 06:53 am
0
0
Augusta Judicial Center

Augusta Judicial Center sounds great to me. Maybe they could name a courtroom after Lamar and Ruffin.

WhippingPost
1
Points
WhippingPost 10/20/09 - 07:21 am
0
0
catfish, which skin color

catfish, which skin color would be closest to the front door or on the highest floor?

Bored in GA
2
Points
Bored in GA 10/20/09 - 07:22 am
0
0
Duh..What is wrong with

Duh..What is wrong with naming our "Judicial Ctr", THe Augusta Judicial Center....How wrong would that be..Come on commission we have issues here!

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 10/20/09 - 07:28 am
0
0
What about the business of

What about the business of running the county? All this ballyhoo about a name on an overpriced palace for a bar and it's guilty clients. Name the thing something and move on.

jack234
727
Points
jack234 10/20/09 - 07:29 am
0
0
After my comment yesterday,

After my comment yesterday, "It might not be along racial lines, it might just be along individual lines - has anyone thought of that AC. HELLO! HELLO!" - I see the AC kept the same article but revised the headline. HELLO! HELLO! Progress!!

andywarhol
0
Points
andywarhol 10/20/09 - 07:30 am
0
0
I'm with BoredinGA. I've

I'm with BoredinGA. I've never seen so many roads, hwys and bldgs named after people, including a dam. We had the Shelby County Court House, the Shelbyville Dam, the Shelbyville Park, the Shelbyville H.S., etc....

crackerjack
150
Points
crackerjack 10/20/09 - 07:54 am
0
0
Let's just split the

Let's just split the difference to satisfy the racist Commissioners,and call it the Hussein Obama Judicial Center. Half black half white.

Little Lamb
46057
Points
Little Lamb 10/20/09 - 08:12 am
0
0
Hmmm, Catfish has an idea - -

Hmmm, Catfish has an idea - - name the center after more than one person. We could name the center after a group of judges. How about calling it "Augusta Judicial Center" and say it is named after all judges who have honorably served Augusta!!

Little Lamb
46057
Points
Little Lamb 10/20/09 - 08:13 am
0
0
Whipping Post says that the

Whipping Post says that the commissioners sound like half the posters on this site. Maybe they ARE half the posters on this site!!

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7848
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 10/20/09 - 08:17 am
0
0
Maybe Whipping Post is a

Maybe Whipping Post is a Commissioner!

Mr. Thackeray
920
Points
Mr. Thackeray 10/20/09 - 08:37 am
0
0
Just another example of how

Just another example of how divided this city is.

jackfruitpaper833
41
Points
jackfruitpaper833 10/20/09 - 08:41 am
0
0
I just wonder why NO white

I just wonder why NO white commissioner will vote for the name change? everything down there is RACE related. Just like this paper Augusta is STILL BACKWARDS.

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 10/20/09 - 09:03 am
0
0
Arguing over race again!

Arguing over race again! There's nothing new under the sun. There's already a Lamar building (I don't care who owns it, it still has the name). How about leave the name as the Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Center, and name courtrooms and other significant areas of the building after the most prominent and effective judges who selflessly served in modern times? There are other cities who name buildings after people, but most folks still use names that are common to them. For example, if someone is at 401, then most people know they are in jail at the Augusta-Richmond County Law Enforcement Center located at 401 Walton Way. If they say they are on Phinizy Road, then you know they are in jail at the Charles B. Webster Detention Center. For the record, I've never been inside either building! People are going to call this building what they want, and it will become known better by that name than any the commission could possibly come up with.

concernednative
28
Points
concernednative 10/20/09 - 09:11 am
0
0
Whipping Post could be

Whipping Post could be Gratham or Smith. That is a realistic posibility.

AWyld1
3
Points
AWyld1 10/20/09 - 09:18 am
0
0
Once again commissioners are

Once again commissioners are for white augusta or black augusta but not for ALL of augusta...what a joke.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 10/20/09 - 09:19 am
0
0
jackfruit, why is it

jackfruit, why is it backwards when it is not your way or in justus's mind everybody is a hillbillie or redneck when not his way? That is just not right. When things get named for people everybody has their own idea and nobody wants to give in. Just name the building what it is "The Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Center" and then no one is honored. Judge Ruffin received his honors all through his political carrear and rightly so. Turn your statement around and reword " I just wonder why NO black commissioner will vote for "The Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Center"? Everything down there is RACE related. Just like this paper Augusta is STILL BACKWARDS. How does that sound? It is the same statement from a different point of view.

chi chi
0
Points
chi chi 10/20/09 - 09:29 am
0
0
How about we get the building

How about we get the building built before we start fighting over what we call it.

sstea
1184
Points
sstea 10/20/09 - 09:30 am
0
0
justus4 why do you have to

justus4 why do you have to turn everything into a race issue?! You are a part of the problem, why not put your energy into being part of the solution!

humbleopinion
0
Points
humbleopinion 10/20/09 - 09:31 am
0
0
Augusta will NEVER move

Augusta will NEVER move forward with these idiots running the city. Personally, I'm tired of seeing somebody's name on EVERYTHING. Every highway overpass is named after somebody. Every intersection. Every bridge. It's getting ridiculous. If ONE person pays for the judicial center, then let them put their name on it. Otherwise it is the AUGUSTA judicial center. Now, wasn't that simple?

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