Night court set up to handle growth
Appeal Staff Writer
No institution is immune from Dayton’s population growth – not even its courthouse.
On a recent Tuesday evening, the Dayton Justice Court was packed with motorists contesting their speeding tickets or traffic violations. Judge Bill Rogers didn’t finish hearing his cases until 8 p.m.
To accommodate this latest influx in court cases, Rogers has moved routine traffic hearings from Thursdays to Tuesday nights.
“There’s no question development has resulted in the number of cases growing in leaps and bounds,” Rogers said. “We’re much busier. People’s lives have gotten a lot more hectic. We end up with a pretty full calendar.”
Rogers has his work cut out for him. His district encompasses some of the fastest-growing communities in Lyon County – Mound House, Mark Twain, Dayton, Stagecoach and Silver Springs. Of the four justice courts in Lyon County – Fernley, Dayton, Smith Valley and Mason Valley – Rogers said Dayton handles more than half of the cases countywide.
Past judges have tried implementing night court, but the demand wasn’t there until now. The culprits? Heavier traffic along the Highway 50 corridor and booming development, Rogers said.
“We got a lot of people in for speeding, stop sign violations, suspended drivers’ licenses,” Rogers said. “To a lesser extent, we get violations from trucks that are overloaded.”
The public has responded favorably to the evening sessions.
“Whenever people call to reschedule their Thursday hearing, they ask for night court,” said Camille Vecchiarelli, who works at the courthouse. “People can come in as soon as they get off work and don’t have to take time off. It’s great for everybody except maybe casino workers” – who don’t work typical 9-to-5 hours.
“If you have a routine hearing, it’s my goal to have you in and out in an hour,” Rogers said. “We’re about 80 percent compliant (with that goal).”
“What’s nice about night court is that the cases go by a lot faster,” Vecchiarelli said. “People don’t have to wait around.”
Time will tell the future of the new system.
“We’re going to see if there’s a demand for it and then we’ll do a survey to see if people like it or not,” Rogers said.
In the past, routine traffic hearings were scheduled on the same day as “out of custody” arraignments – which deal with more serious crimes such as battery and DUIs. Because the arraignments take up more time than traffic hearings, Rogers moved them to Tuesday nights.
“The traffic hearings go by fast,” Rogers said. “Usually, the person will plead guilty. They’re usually asking for a reduced fine or to have fewer points taken off their license.” Most people plead no contest and pay their fines by mail, he added.
Rogers has found other ways to reduce wait times. Since he was elected, he created a separate court date for animal-control issues. “We do that one day a month,” he said. “It gives animal court cases more credibility and alleviates court crowding.”
The next night court session takes place July 21.