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CITY OF DALLAS
TO; Honorable Angela Hunt and Honorable Delia Jasso
Co-Chairs, Ad Hoc Legislative Committee on Judicial Appointments
SUBJECT: Judiciary Response to City Manager's Presentation on the Courts
Attached Power Point Presentation
Pursuant to your request, in responding to the presentation of the Dallas City
Manager concerning the operation of the Dallas Municipal Court the matters I
wanted to bring to your attention are simple, yet critical. I thank you for the
opportunity to respond to the City Manager's presentation and present the
Judiciary perspective. It is imperative that the City Council, as the appointing
authority for the Municipal Judges, fully understand just what the Municipal Judges
do, and, more important, what we as Judges are prohibited from doing. On behalf
of the Dallas Municipal Judges, I have prepared and now submit to you this memo
and the attached Power Point presentation, in the effort to ensure that all City
Council Members are fully informed as to the role of the Municipal JUdges before
they assert requirements of the Municipal Judges that the Judges may not, by law,
be able to fulfill.
As stated herein, the Judiciary exists to ensure that justice is done, not to ensure
that revenue is generated. Because of the legal and ethical restrictions on the
actions of Judges, there is much that the Judges cannot do. Judges cannot, for
example, predetermine what the fines will be on a case without consideration of
the circumstances of the case. Judges also cannot dismiss a case without the
recommendation of the Prosecution, unless the dismissal is for compliance.
JUdges also cannot and should not engage in any effort related to collections of
the fines and costs, as that is the province of Court and Detention Services.
The jurisdiction of the Municipal Court is extensive. From Quality of Life criminal
City Ordinances, to Class C misdemeanors cases, to traffic cases, to juvenile
cases, to the civil jurisdiction of the Municipal Courts, the Judges are called upon
to rule on every imaginable matter, from high weeds and bulky trash to assaults
and family violence. The Judges are also called upon to use their best judqrnent
and rule on the cases on a case by case basis. Nevertheless, the City Manager
has inferred that the City Council should base its appointment of City of Dallas
Municipal JUdges on whether those Judges will, if appointed, commit to assessing
maximum fines and maximum deferred fees in all traffic cases, juvenile cases,
and other Class C misdemeanor cases, regardless. Any attempt to hold Judges
to this standard flies in the face of the law that we as Judges are bound to uphold.
Section 720.002(a)(2) of the Texas Transportation Code prohibits the evaluation,
promotion, compensation, or discipline of a judge of a municipal court according to
the amount of money the judqe collects from persons convicted of a traffic
offense. Under Section 720.002(b)(2), even the mere suggestion that a judge's
appointment is somehow tied to the money that judge brings in to the City runs
afoul of the law, and must be avoided.
Further, the Judges are governed by case law, and the leading case is Jefferson
v. State, which arose out of the Dallas Felony Court. In that case, the Judge
stated on sentencing that he would give the Defendant the maximum penalty if the
Defendant violated the terms of his probation, regardless of the circumstances
giving rise to the violation. The Defendant violated the probation, and the Judge
did what he said he would do, without consideration of the circumstances of the
case itself. The Court of Appeals said clearly that this action on the part of the
Judge was a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Constitution, and that a
Judge must consider the full range of punishment in each and every case, and
cannot assess the maximum fine without regard to the circumstances of the case.
Under the Judicial Canons of Ethics, a JUdge must comply with the law, and must
act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of
the Judiciary. Having a Judge commit to the assessment of maximum fines and
penalties does neither. The question is, does it promote public confidence in the
Judiciary for the City Council to require that the Judges assess the maximum
penalty in all cases and not consider matters on a case by case basis?
Additionally, Section 30.00006(h) of the Texas Government Code prohibits a
municipality from directly or indirectly basing a judge's salary on fines, fees or
costs collected by the court. Interestingly, the Dallas Municipal Judges are the
only Dallas City Council appointees who have not been recommended for a raise
this fiscal year. In fact, Dallas Municipal Judges have not received a pay increase
in 8 years, and actually received a pay cut 2 years ago. To be on parity with other
City Council appointees, please consider this my plea, on behalf of the City of
Dallas Municipal Judges, that the Judges you appoint receive a minimum 10
percent pay raise from the current salary, especially considering their accretion of
duties and the herculean efforts they have expended within the last years to make
the Courts operate more efficiently.
With respect to the Time Served issue, the City Manager has stated that they
believe that the Dallas Municipal Court Judges are giving incarcerated Defendants
too much credit for the time they have served in jail, by giving them credit for more
than $50.00 per day. While it is legal for a Defendant to be jailed for the failure to
pay a fine and costs, under Article 45.048(a)(1) of the Texas Code of Criminal
Procedure an Indigency hearing would be required at the jail for every Defendant
who stated that they could not pay the fine and costs, necessitating a Prosecutor
to be present at the jail twice a day, 7 days a week, and creating a substantial
delay in handling the jail docket, with the costs associated with that delay (such as
overtime for officers, interpreters, Clerks, etc.). Further, under Article 45.048(a)(2)
of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the amount of $50.00 per day for time
served is the floor for credit for time served, not the ceiling.
Giving a Defendant credit for the time served in jail is a requirement of the law.
Article 42.03, Section 2(a) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states that
the Court "shall" give credit for time served. This is not permissive, it is
mandatory. The question is, how much credit? This statute infers that the credit
should be from the time of arrest to the time of sentencing. Case law has differed
on the point. The reality of the situation, however, is that giving a Defendant
partial credit for time served and then releasing the Defendant while he or she still
owes money to the City, and expecting the Defendant to actually somehow pay
that money in the future, would only result in recidivism, with all associated costs
(reissuance of a warrant, re-arrest, re-incarceration, etc.). Defendants
incarcerated for Class C misdemeanors and traffic offenses are usually
incarcerated for a reason - they have no money to pay the fines, warrant fees,
collection costs, court costs, and other costs involved in the case. If they have no
money now, what good would come from ordering that they pay money later?
Judges in Dallas and throughout the State of Texas routinely give Defendant in jail
more than $50.00 per day credit for time served, and Judges throughout the State
run Class C and traffic Alias cases concurrently, as the law provides. Doing less,
quite frankly, makes the jail the equivalent of debtor's prison, where a person
without funds spends time in jail because they owe the City money.
With respect to Deferred Disposition, the law provides that the Judge may order
deferred disposition, and may assess a fee of a minimum of the Court costs only,
and a maximum of the fine plus Court costs, at the Judge's discretion. The law
provides that the cases are to be decided individually, on a case by case basis,
and not as a blanket determination, and this is exactly what the City of Dallas
Municipal Judges do. They follow the law.
The City Manager has also inferred that the judiciary is somehow responsible for
the large number of cases dismissed by the Dallas Municipal Court. The reality is
that dismissals are neither the fault nor the responsibility of the Judges. Cases
are dismissed because the Prosecution asks that the cases be dismissed. Except
in very limited circumstances, such as compliance dismissals, the Judges cannot
dismiss a case without the recommendation of the Prosecution. Prosecutors ask
for dismissal of cases for a myriad of reasons, such as the death of the
Defendant, the retirement or unavailability of the issuing officer, the failure of the
officer to remember the case, the failure of the officer to show up for Court,
because of a plea in bar (where the defendant pleads to other cases in return for
a dismissal), because of the inability of the Prosecution to prove the case, among
other reasons. When the Prosecution recommends dismissal, since the Judges
cannot force the Prosecution to prosecute a case if the Prosecution is not ready to
do so, the cases are dismissed.
As for collections, it is the responsibility of the Court Services to effect collections
of fines and costs assessed by the Court, and it is the responsibility of the
Marshal, acting under the authority of Court Services, to timely execute the
hundreds of warrants signed daily by the Judges. If the collections are not
accomplished, the responsibility lies with Court Services. If the warrants are not
timely executed, the responsibility lies with the City Marshal. The Judges are
responsible for neither operation, and have no authority over either Department.
In order for the Court's processes to improve, the Prosecution must timely file
valid complaints, Court and Detention Services must timely produce and present
the warrants and Capias Pro Fines to the Judge for review when the Defendant
fails to show (or does not do what he/she has promised to do), and the City
Marshal must timely execute all warrants and holds that are in other jurisdictions.
Only in this manner will the time served issue, and other issues within the
Municipal Court, be adequately resolved.
There have been considerable improvements in the Municipal Court in the last
several years. To continue to improve the Dallas Municipal Court system, I
propose the following:
1. I propose the creation of a new Off Docket Court, with the sole
responsibility of handling cases where the Defendant is in Alias
status (has never appeared before a Court) or Capias status (has
been ordered by a Court to do something and has not done it). We
now have a Court that handles cases on the front end, the Proof or
Plea Court, handling cases within the first 21 days. The Off Docket
Court will handle cases on the back end, those that have not been
handled any other way and have gone into warrant status. This
would require the City Council to authorize an additional 1 FTE
(Judge) and 1 FTE (Bailiff) to handle this Off Docket Court, which
could be handled by the Associate Municipal Judges if funded.
2. I propose the creation of a Personal Recognizance (P.R.) Bond to
go with the Attorney Bonds and the Cash Bonds that are now used
in the Municipal Court. In this manner, all cases before the Court
would be bonded, and the failure of a Defendant to appear would
be a violation of his/her bond and thus be able to be addressed
more expeditiously. This proposal requires no expense to the City.
3. I propose that a Pre-Trial Docket be instituted in each trial Court, at
which time all parties to a case can determine if they are ready for
trial and, if so, set the case for a definite trial date. In this manner,
the State will have contacted its witness and determined that the
witness remembers the case beforehand, and the Court will have
addressed any Motions of the Defense without delaying the trial
process. When trial date comes, the State will be ready, the
Defense will be ready, and all trials will be handled expeditiously.
This proposal requires no additional expense to the City.
4. I propose to update the Local Rules of the Dallas Municipal Court.
The Local Rules of Court were originally promulgated in 2009.
There have been substantial changes in the Court and its operation
since then (such as the elimination of the Magistrate Court). In the
effort to streamline the operation of the Court, updating the Local
Rules of Court is necessary. This proposal requires no additional
expense to the City.
5. In the effort to ensure that all parties appearing in Municipal Court,
Judges, Prosecutors, Defense Bar, pro se Defendants, and Clerks,
are fully cognizant of what is expected of them, I propose to have
the City Council formally adopt work rules and procedures for the
Municipal Court, after preparation of same by the Administrative
Judge and acquiescence thereto by the City Manager and the City
Attorney. Such work rules are not the same as the Local Rules of
Court, but will address and formalize the procedures for the
administration of the Courts. This proposal requires no additional
expense to the City.
6. I propose to renumber the Courts to reflect their location on the
various floors of the Municipal Court building after the renovation is
completed, as well as to more accurately reflect the function and
purpose of each Court. The most heavily utilized Courts, the
Juvenile Court and the Proof or Plea Court, should be located on
the first floor of the renovated building, and thus the number of the
Proof or Plea Court would be changed from Court No. 13 to Court
No.2. Similarly, the Community Courts should be numbered
according to when they were formally adopted as Municipal Courts
by the City Council. This numbering system allows for the addition
of new Community Courts in a logical numerical order. This
proposal requires no additional expense to the City.
7. Finally, I propose that the operations of Court and Detention
Services associated with the administration of the Court itself be
under the direct control of the Administrative Judge. These
operations would include docketing, setting and resetting of cases,
timely issuance of warrants, and all operations dealing with the
Court directly. The operations would not include anything having to
do with collections of fines or fees by Court and Detention
Services, or with the actual execution of warrants by the Marshal.
This proposal requires no additional expense to the City.
I hope that by this memo and the attached Power Point presentation I have
effectively addressed all of the issues raised by the City Manager in their
presentation. I am available to brief the Council on the Court's operation should
that be requested. I also look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve the
people of Dallas as the Administrative Judge of the Dallas Municipal Court, as we
have come a long way, but there is much left to accomplish.
C. Victor Lander
City of Dallas Municipal Court Judiciary
Power Point Presentation Attached
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Municipal Court Jurisdiction
The Role -I
/ i \
C. Victor ll.an\der
City of Dallas
• The Judiciary Exists for Justic;e.,.-Net-Re)leT-l8e
• State Law Governs thei AErs o( Judges /\
• There are Legal and Restrictions ory ; \.
Judicial Actions /! \ / i '
• Predetermined Fines/\tiotate the LaW /
• Fines are an i
I\" - I
• Court Services Exists for Collections
i I .-
• Municipal Courts have criminal
- -- r-
over within ft,
the City (within the "Tealtorial Li mits'') / I\
• Municipal Courts have jurisdiction / I \
over City Ordlnances.xnmlnal lawslpassed
by the City Council ,I! \ ·\ "
• Municipal Courts crlrnfnal j Ufisdtction
over Class CMisderneqnors (fine only
offenses) i-. 6 - _
• Municipal Courts trave.Iirnitedcivil jurisdict ion
• The Municipal Court also
jurisdiction over jqveniles ;'!\
(persons under the age ¢f 17 at time of the / I '·
/ I \\ I ..1 I
alleged offense) that ta,ke place the Gitt. \
I \ I / :
Texas Transportation Code
• Section 720.002(a)(2) states:
• "A pol iticaI sub? -: :::-df Ir\
may not establish malntain, formally / \
or informally, a planl to evaluate, / I \
promote, or ... a I
Judge of a rnunlclpat court of record " !
according to the/amount of ffl oryey the ,
... judge collects from convicted ,
of a traffic offense." . ,.-'<
Texas Transportation Code
• Section 720.002(b)(2) states:
- - .. "'\ /'
• Apolitical subdivision . : of -this may /(\
not require or suggesyfto ... a ... jU,dge of 1i '.,
... municipal court of that t he... / \
judge is required or to cJllect a'
predetermined amount of·\money fnom
/ I . r--
persons convictedlof a traffic offense
,; \ 1 i
within a spedfledperlod." . 'Of
Texas Government Code
• Section 30.00006(h)
municipality from or indi uectly
basing a judge's on fines, fees or
costs collected by tho/ /cQurt.
I I \
\l _ "")
Code of Judicial Conduct
• Canon 2A provides "a jugg.e.sQror
with the law and shall-act all in
manner that prornotespublic confidence In 1\
the integrity and of th, / i '\
judiciary". ,I i \ ' ,
Code of Judicial Conduct
• Canon 38(10) prohibits a judge rrom__
publicly commenting or
. / \
before the judge's court in a manner / I ,
which suggests to a i \.
judge's probable dedslon on any particul,ar :
case. The judge require similar
abstention on the.part of court personnel I
I \ I '
subject to the judge's direction and r; ('
Case Law Restrictions
• In Jefferson v. State, 803 S..
_ ..-- . j
(Tex. App-Dallas 1991y:-pef:-ref'cl.); the
Court of Appeals stateW: ""' " /, \
• "In this case ... [the emphasized / I \
the fact that appella,nt khew the c9urt h
promised him cetjaih se\ntence: I
appellant received.what promlted ,.. "
• The Court of Appeals in further.stated:
• "It is axiomatic that it'Is'a denial" due
process for the court to arbttranlvrefuse / \
to consider the of punishment Ii \
/ I \ /
for an offense or to refuse to consider the
eVid.ence and impose p I
punishment." Jefferson at 47 t ;4l2.
Time Served Issue
• Section 12.23 of the Texas PenaI Code ..
- - .
) 1 C I I \
• "An individual guilty of. Class G' :
misdemeanor shall bel a fine ! I .
not to exceed $50010C) ." \
I j \ ,.---.....1 I I
1 \ --- r - I
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/ ,I I
• Traffic cases and .Ordinance
TX Code of Criminal Procedure
• Article 45.203 states:
-_..---- ..., -, r-
• "The governing body /\
shall by ordinance prescribe rules,'. not ,/ . \
inconsistent with any) /a\v of this as / i "
may be proper to enforce the collection df I
fines i d b / I • \ . I I I / j
mes Impose y arnurucpa n / !
/ I \, I \ I
addition to any other method of
enforcement, may _0
the imprisonment "of the defendant.
• Article 45.048 of the Texas - ]
Criminal Procedure states:
failure to pay the/fi he\ fnd i
discharged on habj /as! by s:Hpwlng j
that the defendant:
• "(t) is too poor to pay the
-- -- ,.
l r .. /1\
• (2) has remained in a sufficient length /1 \.
, I \ \
of time to satisfy the l ir\ e and at / \
eachperiodoftiml1served, c1$j / :
specified by the COhvi,cting,court: / I
judgment on the case, /I (Emphasis added) '
I \ ..... "'"'"-
• Article 42.03, Section 2(a) of the Code of
Criminal Procedure states: .J"
• "In all criminal cases tljle judge oft he jK\
court in which the deferdant is convicted /! \
shall give the defendant credit on :It he
defendant's tof\the timelthat the i
defendant has spent: I \ I \ / I
• (1) in jail for the case ... theni rneof I
his arrest and confinement 'until 'his (
sentence by the.trial-eeert ..-:"
• Article 45.051 of the Code of
Procedure states: \. . ;- ,'\
• "On a plea of qulltv by/ ! ."
a defendant or on a of In a / I \
misdemeanor case punishable bylfine only
and payment of I
may defer further .proceedinqs'without . i
entering an adjudication of guilt:and R'l ace
the defendant a . J
not to exceed l 8Ddavs,
• "In issuing the order of
may impose a spedaiexperrsefesson the II
defendant in an arnouat not to exceed the/ \
amount of the fine be
on the defendant as the ,
offense...The judqe.may elect not tto I
impose the special/expense
cause shown by the defendant." I
/ I \
• With limited as *
compliance), a Judge disrruss a 1'\
case without the recommendation' of the . I \
rosecution. / I \ n\
I I I
I \ I
\ I I
, I \. I /
/ I \
• Cases are recommended by fQ[ .
dismissal by Court for mapy:rea"$Qn?-:
• Death of the defendant
• Retirernent/Unevailabllttv of the officer ;/ I \
LI . Ir I I \
• Failure of the officer the case
• Failure of the offlcer.to show up ifor
, \ U
• A plea in bar, defendant-pleading
to other cases return for a distnissaJ
• Inability of Proseeuftorrto-prove Ithe case-
Court Services Issues
• Section 13-8(a)(3) of the -.,
states that the the
Judges) shall the collection of /'\
fines imposed by the/[ Qurt. I n', / ! \
. . I \ !., J
• Section 13-8(a)(S) qf the Dallas C,W Code
states that the Municipal the/
Judges) shall supervise
of arrest warrants, i \ I "
\. J ----..;.. '.•L .. q
• Section 13-10(a)(3) of the
Code states that the Git YMar sn@., ;€NOT 1\
the Judges) acting the direction of / \
the Municipal Clerk, execute I ",
of arrest! su?poenaSj dncl\ other. /
process ISSUing out10ftthe\ MUnlCl p:cHCourt
of record and other warrants oJ:a,ff.bst, ;'
subpoenas and other !Iegal as , I
determined by the Clerk.
• The Judges cannot be legally comRelled
to assess the highest
-_.. --- )1t
• The Judges cannot be compelled 11\
to reduce the credit given to a Defendant/ . \
for Time Served. / I \ / I
• The Judges cannot.and do not diS'riSS / I
cases without the recornmendatlori-of the
Prosecution. /! '. I I
• Court Services for the '
collection of fin&;not the.JjJdiciary.
Where Do We Go From Here?
• Improvements from the JudictilJ:¥- '
• 1. Off Docket
more expeditiously.. r ,..
• 2. A new system developed
requiring a specific bo/hd\from the
Defendant before cohtlnuanceus ;
granted. / I \ /
• 3. APre-trial iNill instituted to /
ensure that all
trial date comes.
• 4. The Local Rules of Court will be
updated and Admin
incorporated therein. '!' - ! r' /1\
• 5. To ensure by all ; ffected / \
parties, Work Rules cdrtcerning the /'
administration of thJ j1ud'i,CiaI performance
of the Municipal Wi\1I be . L-J., ,
promulgated by t rye Judqe,
submitted to the CityIManager the'
. I " dr
Attorney for ' 1:(;)- .--
the City Council
• 6. The Courts should be renumbered-as -a.resutt
of the renovated
• Ct. 1 - Juvenile/Traffic CdLrt - 1st floor' / \
• Ct. 2 - Proof or Plea Ct. i3) - 1st
I I \ \ I',
• Ct. 3 - Domestic Courtif 2
• Ct. 4 - Junk Motor Court - 3
I \ I \ " :
I I . L-- -
• Ct. 5 - Health/Animal/Traffic Court C:3'r.
1 \ I ,
• Ct. 6 - Consumer/Traffic,Court \- 3
• Ct. 7 - Civil Court (form.e,I:-Ct.. 3
• Ct. 8 - Ordinance/Fire/Traffic Court - 4
• Ct. 9 - Traffic Court (former Ct. 7) ==--4!tLfI00f
• Ct. 10 - Traffic Court - 4
:. 11 - Housing/TraffiClitOurt
floor / \ , / \
• Ct. 12 - Dallas Ct. (former
11) - Martin Luther K,lhg I \ :" I
• Ct. 13 - West Ct.. (former/Ct. I
12) - West Dallas Multipurpose Cente/r I
' J \ I I I ,
• Ct. 14 - South Oak Cliff Community Ct.
Headquarters . 6 \
• 7. The operations of Court and.Detention
Services which are € with
the Municipal Courts be uhder the
reporting authority Admini spative / I \,
Judge of the Municipal Court,
/ I \
/ I \
/ I \
;/ I \
Thank you for your attention
(victor.Iander@Da II. com)
• C. Victor Lander