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Archive for Thursday, June 4, 1998

COURT IRONS OUT HOURS MIX-UP

June 4, 1998

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Court officials hope to ease confusion caused by the Lawrence Municipal Court's recent move one block north.

Employees in the Lawrence Municipal Court Building rave about the increased space and new surroundings since moving there in April, but some residents responding to court appearances have been less than pleased.

Tickets issued by the city list a 7:45 a.m. court time on Mondays through Wednesdays, but the new building hasn't been opening until 8 a.m., and court hasn't started until 8:15 a.m. Further confusion was added by a door sign listing municipal court and prosecutor office times from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

While the offices themselves are open then, some people mistakenly have believed the hours refer to court times. On Thursdays and Fridays, the building opens at 7 a.m., the same time a mandatory ``docket call'' is announced in the court room.

``We had some complaints a week ago,'' said John Powell, municipal court manager. ``They apparently read the sign and thought we were closed. The building was open at 7 (a.m.), but people just didn't know that.''

On Wednesday, about half a dozen people milled about shortly before the building opened at 8 a.m. Powell said the city has issued new ticket books with the different time to police, but older tickets given before the change are bringing people to the building early.

To avoid confusion, the building will be opened at 7:45 a.m. Mondays through Wednesdays beginning next week, but court will still be at 8:15 a.m. Court would be earlier, Powell said, but each morning the judge arraigns prisoners at the former municipal court room, a block to the south in the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th.

Both police and court employees are informing city ordinance violators about the court's new location and building hours.

``There could be some old tickets still out there, but those ticket books have now been recalled,'' said Cathleen Abell, assistant city prosecutor.

The municipal court reopened on April 27, and it takes about a month for the old tickets to go through the system.

``When we moved here we suspected we'd have a few operating problems, so that's why we didn't do much in advance in preparing signs,'' Powell said.

``We keep looking at the court hours, and of course, that's based a lot on the availability of a judge. We've always had court in the morning, because we've tried to get them done and out of the parking lot before the district courts convened. We no longer have to take that into consideration.''

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is ckoger@ljworld.com.

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