11/24/09 — Grant will create new Wayne DWI court

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Grant will create new Wayne DWI court

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 24, 2009 1:46 PM

A grant from the Governor's Highway Safety Program will pay for a new DWI court for Wayne County, said District Attorney Branny Vickory and his staff.

It's one of two recently-obtained grants that will fund new positions at the courthouse.

Officials hope the new court will help alleviate a backlog of driving-while-impaired cases, which have a tendency to build up quickly and be continued.

The Highway Safety Program grant is for a total of $116,000, and will fund a full-time assistant district attorney and a part-time clerk of court.

The grant will also pay for a rotating judge, most likely from a pool of retired jurists appointed by the N.C. Administrative Offices of the Courts, Vickory said.

Court officials said the first session of the new DWI court will be held Jan. 4, and will operate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the first and third weeks of each month, a court administrator said.

The district attorney, who is in charge of cases in Lenoir and Greene counties along with Wayne in the 8th District, said he is excited about the prospect of the new positions.

"It actually gives me another assistant DA, and it give us funding for a judge to come and hold court. It also provides (Clerk of Courts) Pam Minshew with a 24-hour (per week) clerk."

Kathy Calhoun, who among other duties works as a grant writer for the Wayne County court system, said the positions for the grant have already been filled.

William Curtis Stackhouse will serve as the new assistant district attorney and Brenda Grantham will serve as the part-time clerk.

The judge in the DWI court will rotate depending on the planned scheduled of the Administrative Office of the Courts, Mrs. Calhoun said.

Mrs. Calhoun said the purpose of applying for the grant is expedient processing of DWI cases.

"(It is) to help assist in the prosecution of DWIs so that we didn't get backlogged. And also because they had cases that were getting too old, and people needed to be tried -- they needed to be taken off the street."

Vickory noted that, for now, the new DWI court is a "one-year deal."

"That doesn't mean it might not be able to go another year," the district attorney said, if another grant application is accepted by the Governor's Highway Safety Program.

The Governor's Highway Safety Grant is not the only recent grant funding received after a grant was written by Mrs. Calhoun, then edited by Assistant District Attorney Terry Yeh.

Another grant, from federal "stimulus" money, will pay for a victim witness legal assistant in the Wayne County District Court.