Court playing catch up after 'overdue' day

DTL Staff

It’ll be sometime this week before West Point posts a revised list of people owing overdue fines in Municipal Court.

City court staff came in Monday morning to start processing the mound of paperwork generated by Friday’s almost five-hour special court session to handle the first wave of people trying to clear up their cases. More than 80 people came through court and either paid off their fines or made a partial payment and set up a payment plan.

But all those files must be recorded and future court dates logged.

“You saw all the paperwork, we’re just getting started,” Court Clerk Monica Lairy said. “And we’ve got court Tuesday, so it could be a few days.”

Friday was part of a concerted effort to clean up the court’s old fines and penalties, some dating back to 2004.

The city started the effort Feb. 2 when it posted 40 pages containing as many as 1,500 names on the Police Department’s Facebook page. In addition to the names, the files listed charges, original court dates and the amount of fines owed.

The fines totaled about $1 million.

Lairy and her staff have fielded dozens of calls from people wanting more information. At the time of the Facebook posting, Judge Mark Cliett set the Friday court date for people to pay up, make arrangements or show up in court.

Work through Friday cleared about 300 names from the list or at least got them set for trials in March. But that still leaves a lot of names.

Once the new list is posted, Cliett will hold court March 22 to give another round of people a chance to take care of their business.

“We know everyone couldn’t be here. And some people probably still are scared. Hopefully they will hear that it was better to come to court than not to. Eventually, we will start arresting people,” Cliett explained. “And I hope the folks who were given payment plans and court dates will follow through, that they understand they were given a chance and will get this off their records.”

After the next round of court and possible arrests, the city may consider doing it once a year.

“Once we get things as cleaned up as we think we can, we’ve talked about maybe doing it on Jan. 1 each year just to stay on top of it. It would be something people could start looking for,” Cliett said. “Right now we’re just shooting for March 22.”