Archive for Thursday, December 29, 2005

Municipal Court adds day for trials

December 29, 2005

Beginning in January, Lansing Municipal Court will add an extra day of court each month to try to deal with an ever-rising caseload.

City Administrator Mike Smith said the extra court day - the third Wednesday of each month - will be dedicated to cases in which those charged want to have their case tried and call witnesses. Municipal Court will continue to have sessions on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, but those sessions will be devoted to arraignments, first appearances, fines, pleadings and trials without witnesses.

"We just don't have enough time to do all this in two days" of court a month, Smith said.

Added Police Chief Steve Way-man, "Our court dates right now are really filling up."

The additional court date will have benefits both for the city and offenders, Smith said.

Offenders who come to court to plead guilty and pay their fine no longer will have to sit through trials waiting for their cases to be called. The city hopes to see a decrease in overtime paid to police officers who must testify as witnesses but often sit through court waiting for their case to also be called.

"We think it will be more convenient, and it definitely should cut down on overtime for officers," Smith said.

Wayman said there were other benefits to his department aside from cutting down on overtime. Since court will be in session on the new dates from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., officers on the night shift won't have to face an early-morning wakeup call. Nor will officers have to wonder anymore about which cases they'll be called to testify.

"Now there won't be any guessing when there's going to be a trial," Wayman said. "That takes a lot of pressure off the department."

Smith said the additional court date will mean a boost in pay to Municipal Judge William Pray, from about $8,500 annually to about $12,000 annually.

"It's a small increase considering what it will do," Smith said. "It's a good plan for the city."

Court on the second and fourth Wednesdays will continue to begin at 8:30 a.m.

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