Municipal courts reopen

by From the offices of Municipal Judge Forrest K. Phifer

Presiding Municipal Court Judge Forrest K. Phifer, of the cities of Alto, Cuney, Rusk and Wells has announced plans to reopen his courts for in-person hearings on a limited trial basis.

“The Municipal Court is aware of the pressures being applied upon the public by the current pandemic and has been monitoring closely the developments internationally, locally and regionally regarding the Coronavirus,” Judge Phifer stated. “Events in the news required a recent change in our operations. The health and safety of our community is of paramount importance. Accordingly, this required certain changes in our recent procedure including a cancellation of all in-person court hearings for April and May.

“The Court has maintained a close observation of the events as they developed and has decided to reopen the court for in-person hearings on a limited trial basis beginning in June. We have attempted to make all necessary adjustments to our procedure to accommodate the special health concerns inherent in public gatherings at this time.

“Additional changes may be made in the days to come, as may be deemed necessary. The operating plan for these hearings has been approved by the local county health authority.

Anyone wishing to resolve a court matter prior to a court appearance, may contact the court for specific information concerning a case. Anyone financially unable to pay the fine may be eligible for alternative methods of disposition, i.e. a payment plan or community service.

“You may also request indigence.,” Judge Phifer stated. “As always you may request a trial – either a jury trial or a bench trial (a trial by the judge, without a jury).”

Please note Judge Phifer CANNOT discuss the merits of a pending judicial proceeding prior to trial. (Canon 3(5), Code of Judicial Conduct). This means that the judge shall not discuss a case prior to trial. Also note that no one connected with this court receives any part of any fine. All fine money is deposited directly with the city, with that portion assessed by the state being transferred accordingly on a routine basis.

Anyone with an unresolved citation with the city that does not respond in timely manner may be subject to:

• the issuance of a warrant and wanted status reported to appropriate agencies;

• warrant fee and/or other fees totaling up to $50 being added;

• arrest and detainment (arrest can be made at your home, while driving, or at your place of business. If arrested while driving, YOU will be responsible for charges assessed for the towing and storage of your vehicle.);

• a collection fee equal to 30 percent of the unpaid balance being added to the total owed; and

• a hold being placed on your driver’s license renewal.

To help facilitate the disposition of a case, citizens may resolve citations by mail, telephone or online without need for appearing in person before the judge.

For more information on a case, or any citizen wishing to dispose of a case without appearing in person before the Court, can contact the appropriate court, during normal business hours, at:

• Alto Municipal Court – (936) 858-4711

• Cuney Municipal Court – (903) 876-4399

• Rusk Municipal Court – (903) 683-2213

• Wells Municipal Court – (936) 867-4615