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Night court could ease burden

Pasco County judges don't have enough time to hear all the people who challenge traffic tickets.

As higher-priority cases push to the front of the case list, traffic hearings are backing up. If the court doesn't deal with the disputed tickets before deadlines for speedy trials, it has to dismiss them. But outgoing Administrative Judge Lawrence Keough has a plan: night court.

Next week, the County Commission will consider adding $12,700 to its budget to pay court clerks and sheriff's deputies for the evening sessions.

Night court two or three times a month, presided over by hearing officers, should be enough to clear up the backlog and stay up to date on the case flow, according to Keough's plan.

The hearing officers would not be judges, but lawyers specially trained to listen to evidence and make a ruling on the facts of a case.

The three-hour sessions would start at 6 p.m. They would be held three times a month until the backlog is erased, then twice a month.

The need for such a program is growing, Keough wrote. In July, 347 traffic violation hearing cases were waiting. County judges have been able to take care of an average of 161 such cases each month, sandwiched in among the rest of their caseload.

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