About 3,600 speed-camera cases are on the West McDowell Justice Court docket this morning at 8:30 a.m., and officials are bracing for hundreds of citizens -- at the least -- to appear in person.
"What we don't know is how many will show up," says Terry Stewart, justice courts administrator.
About 2,000 of the cases represent people who recently received state Department of Public Safety photo-enforcement tickets in the mail and have a court date set for this morning, explains Stewart, a former state Department of Corrections director.
It's safe to say few people from that group will come to the downtown court at 620 West Jackson, since they still have the option to pay their fines or wait to see if a process server shows up after they miss the court date.
The other group, however, consists of about 1,500 people who blew off their mailed citations, were served by a process server, and now have a hard court date set for this morning.
Many will probably choose to deal with their ticket by calling in, paying the fine, or signing up for driving school, Stewart says. On the other hand, many may choose to show up in court to request hearings or talk to court staff about their tickets.
When we reached Stewart by phone this morning, he was on his way io work to see if any crowds had begun gathering. If hundreds of people turn out, "it's going to be a challenge," he says.
The court is prepared to bring in extra judges, if necessary.
West McDowell Justice Court typically experiences a high volume of DPS speed-camera cases, since it receives cases that stem from cameras on bustling central Phoenix freeways. But it's never seen anything like this before. (Tip of blogging cap to camerafraud.com, which is where we first learned about this).
The overall number of DPS camera cases has skyrocketed recently -- last month, West McDowell received more than 13,000 new ones. On top of that, high numbers of older cases that required process servers are just now coming due. Court officials hope this is some kind of "hump" that will soon pass and not the new norm. But no one knows for sure, Stewart says.
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UPDATE: The big crunch was a big bust. Crowd size was normal at West McDowell Justice Court. Stewart is getting back to us with more info -- we'll let you know what he says.