Municipal court to drop night proceedings

Jefferson City’s municipal court will switch Wednesday night court proceedings to earlier in the day starting June 1, partly in an attempt to save money.

The change will be done on a trial basis through August, said Judge Cotton Walker.

Municipal court will no longer have arraignments or payment dockets in the evenings, Walker said. Arraignments instead will begin at 8:30 a.m. Wednesdays, with the payment, or show cause, docket beginning at 10:30 a.m. The trial docket, which currently begins at 8:30 a.m. Wednesdays, will begin at 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays.

Staff will re-evaluate the schedule change at the beginning of August and may choose to keep the new schedule, at least until the end of the fiscal year, Walker said.

“We’re going to give it a try,” Walker said. “It’s probable that unless we just absolutely hate it, we’ll go ahead ... and calendar it through the end of the fiscal year.”

Walker said the decision to change the schedule was made, in part, because of the city’s budget issues this fiscal year. In late February, the city revealed a $1.68 million budget shortfall for this fiscal year, which led to a series of cuts being approved by the City Council in March.

Walker said the hope is that the change will lead to less overtime needs of court staff and police officers, who provide security and often need to testify at the trial docket.

City Counselor Drew Hilpert, who also acts as court administrator, said the savings from the schedule change would not be significant, but there are no estimates as to how much could be saved from the change.

Walker expects the change will have some effect on how the court handles its caseload. Municipal court typically handles more than 10,000 cases per year and, on Wednesday evenings, more than 200 people come through municipal court on average.

“That’s something we’re definitely going to be measuring,” Walker said. “It won’t be a big difference for most people who have cases ... we’ll just have to wait and see.”

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