| Crime |

Five Easy Pieces: How to Fix Dallas's Very Broken, Busted Municipal Courts System

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Back in March, the Office of the City Auditor noted that the Dallas Municipal Court system is all kinds of messed up. Which is why the Dallas City Council's set to get briefed Wednesday on an efficiency study aimed at cleaning up the mess -- though how much time the council spends with the briefing on Wednesday's a bit iffy, as it shares agenda space with a detailed 181-page preliminary FY2009-'10 budget sneak preview sure to eat up most of the day.

This much is certain, though: The team charged with fixing the muni courts has ID'd five areas in desperate need of change -- and pronto. According to the briefing, the city needs to:

  1. Reduce the number of cases that are set for trial
  2. Decrease the time it takes for a case to go to trial
  3. Decrease the number of witness scheduling conflicts
  4. Decrease the time it takes to process citations
  5. Decrease the number of errors in citation writing

The briefing's full of interesting items worth nothing, such as: It takes anywhere from six months to two years to get a trial; there are, on average, 12,693 traffic trials requested per month; though it costs the city more than $1 million for Dallas police officers to come down and testify, they actually take the stand less than 1 percent of the time; 70 percent of the cases that go to trial wind up getting tossed for myriad reasons; and the city guesstimates that this fiscal year alone, 1,339 citations will get tossed to do writing and/or entry errors that will cost the city $320,038 in revenue.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.