April 16, 2005
Scottsdale’s Justice Court has stopped issuing marriage licenses and is taking other steps to control a backlog of paperwork that has grown worse in recent months.
"Scottsdale is buried right now," said Quentin Tolby, presiding Maricopa County justice of the peace. "Out of the 23 courts I preside over, they have the most problems."
The court’s high number of civil and driving under the influence cases, coupled with pay issues for clerks at all justice courts, have contributed to the backlog, officials said.
Among the problems making operations at the court difficult:
• High clerk turnover.
• An increase of citations from an Arizona Department of Public Safety crackdown on speeding on Loop 101.
• The more than 500 DUI cases that came in during November and December.
"Those are all the things that sort of collided," said Jerry Porter, associate presiding judge in Maricopa County Superior Court. Porter was justice of the peace in Scottsdale from November 2001 to August 2003.
"That court basically had kept up until last fall, when things started to slip," he said.
One solution of easing clerks’ burden has been to stop offering marriage licenses at the court, meaning couples have to find another justice court that offers the service.
Scottsdale’s justice court is not only the Valley’s busiest by workload; it’s also the biggest geographically, serving Scottsdale, Carefree, Fountain Hills and Paradise Valley.
Although overtime benefits are being offered to workers, Tolby said having employees work extra hours doesn’t make the problem go away.
"These are piecemeal fixes; I’m looking for permanent fixes," Tolby said, adding that a new precinct should be created.
Porter said there are a few ways the court could alleviate its problems.
Maricopa County is expected to give 20 percent to 30 percent raises in the next six weeks, he said.
"That’ll be easier for us to retain clerks," he said.
This summer, Scottsdale Justice Court will move to Union Hills Drive and state Route 51 and become consolidated with two other courts in north Phoenix.
"By August, when we regionalize this court, there won’t be any backlog of any sort," Porter said.