Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Chris Arnt described his goals for when he officially takes over as DA in January in a Sep. 2 interview with the Dade County Sentinel.
Arnt was officially sworn in as DA on July 1. However, due to budget cuts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Arnt cannot take over until next year.
Arnt said former DA “Buzz” Franklin dodged a bullet by retiring right as COVID-19 became a serious threat.
“He picked a very good time to retire,” Arnt said.
Arnt said that while he cannot officially take over until January, he currently has all the power and responsibility of the DA.
Arnt said that finding a way to conduct court while also being socially distant and safe has been a difficult challenge.
“It has been an experience,” Arnt said.
Another challenge is changing the image of the circuit in the wake of nation-wide efforts to defund the police, rioting, looting and protesting. Arnt was added to an oversight committee responsible for handling the change in image.
Arnt said that under this committee he is working to redesign the circuit’s website, lmjcda.org, to allow people to learn more about the staff, the circuit as a whole and what both do.
“I think there’s a stigma about who we are and what we do,” Arnt said.
Arnt said that another way to improve the image of the circuit is through community outreach. Arnt said a “Clothes Closet” was set up to provide clothes for victims of domestic violence, especially if those victims fled without changes of clothes. The circuit is also helping pack and distribute boxes at local food banks, among other efforts.
Another key aspect of improving public relations with the circuit is efficiency. Arnt said that back when he started at the circuit in 1992, there were less than 20 staff in total. Today, there are 16 attorneys and 34 employees that make up the circuit.
Because of this, Arnt wants to establish supervisors, which will handle any issues that the DA cannot get to right away. Arnt said this would speed up procedures rapidly and increase public perception of the circuit.