Chatham County probate judge responds to lawsuit

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Chatham County's probate judge said the lawsuit filed by and two Chatham County residents is not surprising at all.

"I've been telling the county commission for 9, 10, or 12 months now that I could expect to be sued; the court could expect to be sued," Judge Thomas Bordeaux Jr said.

That lawsuit finally came. They filed suit over the long wait for weapons carry licenses. The county has had a months-long wait for almost a year. The lawsuit demands that the probate judge follows the law and does his job.

"All the licenses have to be processed or the applications have to be processed within a maximum of 35 days from the date of application. We've been saying that's he's still quite a bit behind on that," said the filing attorney, John Monroe.

The probate court judge said they're finally making a noticeable dent in the hundreds of applications. The judge said in this particular lawsuit, his office is following the law. However, he admitted they need to do a better job. They've made changes in the last couple months that he said are making a difference.

"That's what I want to do. That's what I'm getting paid to do and that's what I got elected to do, and that's what I'm going to do," Bordeaux said. "I've got to have the resources to do it."

Until March, he said he never had the people or the space to handle the hundreds of applications coming in. Because of that, the backlog swelled to more than 2,000 people last year. Now, they said that number is down close to 200. Recent funding and hiring by the county made that possible.

"What we've chosen to do I think wisely is that if someone comes back initially with a clean background, that we run it right away, run the full history right away, because those are people who do have an absolutely clean background and we can issue that license quickly," Bordeaux said.

That change has allowed them to grant more than 275 licenses since last Friday. The judge said everyone with a clean initial background has been checked.

"If you've applied for your weapons carry license and it's come back with a clean background check, you are getting that license in your hands probably within two weeks of your application," Bordeaux said. "You would never think that if someone has a felony in their background, that they'd served 10 years for drug possession, that they're going to come in and apply for a license. They do! They do every day."

The attorney suing the county said the court is still not following the law, adding that his clients' applications have been open since February without any notice from the probate court.

The lawsuit references a timeline of when these applications need to approved or denied. Bordeaux said state law requires they decide on that no more than 10 days after running a background check. However, many of these background checks aren't being run quickly because of all the applicants.

If you're waiting and haven't heard from the court, Judge Bordeaux said you can call the probate court for an update on your application.

For more information, call the probate court at 912.652.7265.

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