Originally created 11/17/99

Ludicrous reprimand

William D. Jennings III, the chief judge of Richmond County Civil and Magistrate Court, is throwing sand into the wheels of justice with his eccentric ruling that he won't issue anymore warrants to Deputy Roger Rice.

Why? Because Rice, a task force member that patrols theAugusta Housing Authority, asked another judge to sign a warrant that Jennings had turned down.

This practice is plain common-sense. Sometimes a warrant can be poorly drawn up, and the turndown signals it must be improved upon.

This is apparently what happened with Deputy Rice. He was told by his supervisors to rework the warrant and submit it to Gayle B. Hamrick, the county's chief judge of State Court, who approved it.

This kind of thing goes on all the time. When one judge blocks a warrant, another is asked if he'll OK it. It's certainly no put-down of the first judge, as Jennings seems to believe.

And it's definitely no reason for Jennings to say he can't trust Rice and won't accept anymore warrant requests from him. The deputy did what he was supposed to do -- obey his supervisors.

"I'm not punishing a deputy for doing what he was told to do," says Sheriff Charlie Webster who rightfully backs Rice 100 percent.

However, Jennings' reprimand of Rice does put a crimp in the efficiency of the machinery of justice. The usual procedure to obtain warrants is to go through Jennings' office which is open 24 hours and is conveniently located at the Law Enforcement Center on Walton Way.

It's especially convenient for Rice, whose night shift hours make it particularly difficult to find another judge. But that's what the deputy will have to do, at least until Jennings lifts his reprimand.

Even before this incident, the ever-arrogant Jennings was the county's least respected judge. He earned his "stripes" with the absurdly low bond he set for Shayna Lively, the drunk driver who killed a father and his two toddlers. And then he insulted South Carolina for seeking her extradition.

Later he inexplicably fired his court's nine-year clerk then hired her back at the same salary, but in a lesser post. Jennings also has a record of being soft (or confused?) on crime.

In any event, the Rice brouhaha proves the judge continues to add to his well-earned reputation of being a bungling, self-righteous embarrassment to his robes.


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