Thorsby’s new judge has big ideas for town

Published 8:25 pm Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New municipal court judge Amanda Baxley holds court in the Thorsby Annex.

As Thorsby’s new municipal court judge, Amanda Baxley is charged with making decisions based on what is best for the town and its residents.

She plans to make some of those beneficial decisions even when she isn’t holding court.

Baxley has several ideas she thinks will benefit Thorsby. She presented those ideas to a receptive town council at its meeting on July 16.

Mayor Dearl Hilyer appointed Baxley to replace previous municipal court judge Alex Jackson. One of Baxley’s first orders of business was to recommend to Hilyer a candidate for the position of town prosecutor.

Fletcher Green was named to that position.

“He was my first choice,” Baxley said. “I knew he would have the work ethic to put into this.”

Baxley and Green both practice in Clanton. The town judge said she thinks the pair’s proximity to Thorsby will help them run the town’s court business more efficiently.

Next, Baxley would like to see the construction of a bench at the Thorsby Municipal Annex. The building, just off Highway 31, is the site of the town’s court proceedings and town council meetings.

Council members sit around a large table for their meetings. Baxley sits behind a small desk. She said she thinks a bench–a raised wooden structure facing the audience–would enhance both the professionalism and safety of the proceedings.

“It would be based on what the city of Jemison has done, because I’m familiar with their court,” Baxley said. “We’re thinking a semicircle like the [Chilton County] commission.”

Baxley’s husband, Jason, a state trooper, has volunteered his efforts in helping construct the bench.

Of more interest to town residents might be Baxley’s plan to institute a pre-trial diversion program.

“We had a lot of cases that were being appealed to the circuit court level, and when cases are appealed to the circuit court level, the town loses money,” Baxley said. “The appeals process is there for people when they have a genuine issue with a ruling, but we don’t want people appealing arbitrarily.

“The goal is to keep our cases here in the town.”

The program would target first-time offenders and make available avenues including counseling, drug and alcohol monitoring and community service, in addition to court costs paid to the town.

Once the pre-trial program is completed, the charge would be dismissed.

“There is some stigma that comes along with having a DUI on your record,” Baxley said. “This is for people that just need a second chance. If they were found guilty, they’d have to do these things anyway.”

Baxley is also working with Police Chief Rodney Barnett to set up a driving school to be used by traffic violators.

“My goal would be to, at least, have driving school available every other month,” she said. “It would be only for traffic citations. It would save people from having their insurance rates go up; also, youths could go through because there can be some insurance breaks related to that.”

Baxley has municipal court experience. In addition to her work with District Attorney Randall Houston’s office, she has served as a special prosecutor for the city of Clanton and as a public defender in the city of Jemison.