Town halls on the consolidation of the courts of justice | News
Two town hall-type meetings have been scheduled by opponents of the project to consolidate the courts of law in the county of La Paz. The premiere will take place at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, January 11 at the Centennial Community Center in Centennial Park between Salomé and Wenden. The second will take place at 9 a.m. on Thursday, January 13 at the Quartzsite Community Center, which is located on Chandler Street across from Town Park.
In promotional flyers, the organizers of these meetings said they wanted to present information to the community as well as receive feedback and information from community members. They want to present this input and information to the La Paz County Supervisory Board at their meeting at 10 a.m. on Monday, January 18.
The Council planned actions on the consolidation of the courts of justice during this meeting. It was postponed from their December 20 meeting because District 1 Supervisor David Plunkett said he was not ready to vote on the issue.
This is a proposal to combine the Parker, Quartzsite and Salomé courts of law in two, if not one. It’s one of the ways the county plans to save money and cut spending from the financial crisis that began earlier this year. Controllers were informed in April that there is a cumulative shortfall of more than $ 4 million in the general fund. Two consultants working on the county’s annual audit, Jay Parke and Karen Ziegler, said the general fund was insolvent.
According to information presented by county administrator Megan Spielman, the courts bring in $ 1.5 million in revenue with general fund expenses of $ 1.3 million. By consolidating into two courts, the county’s expenses would be $ 900,000. With a single court, these expenses would be $ 600,000.
The courts mainly hear civil cases and crimes. They hear felony cases and decide if they should be related to the Superior Court.
In Arizona, courts are ranked by judicial productivity credits, which have been determined by the Courts Administration Office, which is part of the Arizona Supreme Court. The formula for determining these credits can be found in state law, ARS 22-125. These credits are used to determine the salaries of judges and court employees.
ARS 22-125-H states that no court of law can exceed 1,200 credits in any given year. If this happens, the law states that “the county supervisory board shall create sufficient courts or redraw the boundaries of the courthouse in accordance with section 22-101, in order to reduce judicial productivity credits for any enclosure that exceeds this limit “.
Spielman said the Quartzsite Court of Justice currently has 270.93 credits per year, Parker has 178.37 and Salome has 100.30. The total appropriation of 549.6 is not even half of what the state would need to have more than one tribunal.
District 2 supervisor Duce Minor said La Paz County has three courts, as that is the number of those that were when La Paz split from Yuma County in 1983. S ‘ they were starting over, Minor said it was likely they would have fewer courts.
Opponents of the consolidation, including District 3 Supervisor Holly Irwin, said closing courts in Salomé and Quartzsite would deprive residents of outlying areas of the county of service. She noted that these residents also pay taxes.
Other opponents, including Diane Jones-Zak and Kyndra Mareesa Aguirre, said the number of credits does not tell what the courts are doing or their caseload. Jones-Zak said that if the courts are merged with Parker, they will have to construct a new building as the current Parker courthouse would not be able to handle the increased workload.
Jones-Zak and Aguirre noted that the courts provide necessary court services, such as protection orders, in the communities of residents.
“People come to us asking for help,” she said. “Where are they going to go? “
Bouse resident George Nault told supervisors on December 20 that consolidating the courts would send the wrong message to residents of outlying areas of the county.
“You tell us to pay your taxes, shut our mouths and get nothing in return,” Nault said.
A resident of Salomé, Gary Zak, had told supervisors that he wanted to organize a working session or public meetings on the courts. He was one of the organizers of the Salomé meeting.
The meeting at Quartzsite is sponsored by the Desert Messenger. For more information about this meeting, call 928-916-4235.