TALENT — Violators of traffic laws and municipal codes are now cited into Jackson County Justice Court in Central Point rather than Talent Municipal Court, which will cease operation by December.
Police Department officers started the new procedure two weeks ago after City Council approved shutting down the court. A need for new court software, concerns about security and a low number of citations issued to Talent residents were among factors that led to the decision.
“You basically need to be in the business or out of the business,” said City Manager Tom Corrigan. “There are a very low percentage of the residents who went to court.”
Court was held twice per month in the Community Hall. Administrative Services Director Denise Woodman estimated each two-hour session cost the city about $600. That included salary for the judge, a police officer, the court clerk and a city employee to serve as collections officer.
Preparation of the court docket and administrative tasks before and after the sessions added to city costs, Woodman said.
New software would be required when the city changes to another computing system next year, said Corrigan. A software module, which would have been sought by bid, was estimated to cost $20,000.
Total annual revenue for the court was $131,000. The state, however, received $32,500 of that amount. Of the remainder, $33,000 came from municipal cases that were heard by the Justice Court under an agreement that split proceeds evenly.
Future revenues would be split with Justice Court after payment to the state. No new agreement was needed to direct cases to the Justice Court, Corrigan said.
Justice Court offers more flexible hours for those cited, and more diversion programs are available. Municipal Court offered a diversion program only for seatbelt violations.
Justice Court has some additional sanctions not available to the city for those who do not pay fines, said Police Chief Mike Moran. The city now refers those cases to a collection agency.
Security when court is in session with an officer present is not a large concern for Moran. He’s more worried about staff at City Hall who may face individuals that have received citations.
“Customers have frightened staff in the past with their hostile, aggravated threats,” said Moran. “If a person decided to get physical, there is very little physical barrier.”
Protection for Justice Court personnel is much better, Moran said.
Of 235 citations issued in the first quarter of 2014, 26 percent went to Talent residents. In 2012, 27 percent of the 941 citations were issued to Talent residents. In 2013, 29 percent of the 1,148 citations went to Talent residents.
Most citations are for traffic offenses, said Moran, although code violations such as trash accumulation are ticketed also.
Up to 30 percent of citations are handled before court dates, many being paid by mail.
Medford lawyer James Wickre, who serves as Municipal Court judge, was out of the office until Monday and unavailable for comment.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.