Judges need to implement night, weekend court to alleviate crammed dockets
Hernando TodayThe issue: Night court. Our opinion: If judges need more courtroom space, there's plenty after 5 p.m. and on the weekends.
Published: March 20, 2010
Published: March 20, 2010
Fifth Judicial District judges in Hernando County have been complaining long and hard about the lack of space to carry out justice.
There aren't enough courtrooms or space for judges and their staffs, they claim. They want a new judicial center. Estimates have ranged upwards of $40 million. The county has $18.6 million set aside for a new judicial center. There's even been talk of making a deal with the owner of the old Brooksville hospital that the county sold for $1.1 million in 2006. The owner, Bill Rain, says he could work within the county's $18.6 million nest egg.
The truth of the matter is that there's plenty of courtroom space in Hernando County - just not between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday when it's convenient for judges and not so convenient for people who work.
Night court and weekend court would help cure the courtroom space crunch and provide easier access to the public. Judges just don't seem willing to step outside their comfort zone.
Judge Steven Rushing says he's not opposed to trying night court on an experimental basis, but he says he's concerned it would create costly overtime and cause conflict with judges' current schedules.
Yeah, judges' schedules would have to change. As for overtime costs, which the clerk of the court says could be remedied by simply shifting work hours, it would still be a heck of a lot cheaper than $18.6 million-plus.
County Commissioner Jeff Stabins likes the idea of night and weekend court.
"It just seems logical to me that we've got a courthouse that's sitting empty at least two days a week, Saturday and Sunday, not to mention nights," he told Hernando Today, noting that he brought up those court options in the past but they were "basically dismissed out of hand" by the judges.
Pasco and Pinellas counties have had night court for traffic cases for years.
"It's mainly to facilitate the people going to court, but it's also a volume issue with us," said Ron Stuart, public information officer for the Sixth Judicial District. "We can't handle it all in the daytime session."
Sounds like a good fix for the same problem in Hernando County.
This is what we think: Until justices in Hernando County exhaust all existing options to remedy courtroom overcrowding, county officials should keep a tight grip on the $18.6 million it has set aside for a new judicial center. Commissioners could better use that money to attract primary industry jobs and maybe even a satellite university campus to Hernando County to train workers for those highly skilled jobs.
Where do we want to invest our limited tax dollars - jobs or a judicial center? We can't afford everything. The priority should be on the future and making Hernando County a better place to live. Good paying jobs, not a new judicial center, will do that. Invest the money in diversifying the workforce and the economy here. That would be money well spent.
Change is tough sometimes, but spending millions of taxpayer dollars because judges don't want to work more nights and weekends smacks of arrogance.
We say: Tough toenails.
If our children can go to school in portable classrooms because there isn't enough money to expand schools, then judges - like a lot of other folks in this tough economy - can work nights and weekends. They're smart people; they can figure it out.