The following is a report from Sarah Mitchell Gunter, chair of the committee that is studying the problem of bond forfeitures in CCL#1. Please respond with any input to Sarah at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I sat down with Kay Alexander yesterday to discuss the situation in county court 1. I think that, to get anywhere, I need to visit with the judge and Kay together; the major problem they have is lack of communication. So, if we can nail down what it is that each/both of them wants, we can likely get somewhere. However, the judge will be unavailable for that sit-down until at least early April. In the meantime, I visited with Kay about why the bond forfeitures are happening and what we can do to prevent it. What it boils down to is this: if she does not see you in person and physically hand you a setting notice at the PNC, your client will receive a bond forfeiture. She has a list of rules for PNCs posted on her door. (If you have not seen them or would like to be refreshed as to what they are, please let me know; I will get them to you.)
There are a few unlisted addendums to that list of rules. They are: a phone announcement will not be accepted and will result in a bond forfeiture; a note will not be accepted and will result in a bond forfeiture; the ONLY acceptable form of an announcement is in person on the date of the PNC. Even if there is a long line that you don’t want to wait in, it is in your client’s best interest to wait because a failure to speak personally with Kay is the quickest way to get a BF. This, of course, begs the question of what to do when Kay is not there. She prefers you wait, as she will be right back. In the even that you can’t wait, there is a hierarchy of people you can go to in her absence. First, go to Veda Wright. If Veda is not in her office, go see Mary Koontz. If Mary is not in her office, go see Brandy Loya.
If you speak to the judge about resetting a PNC and you don’t also speak with Kay, your client will most likely get a BF. In other words, if you can’t attend the PNC and the judge tells you to have Kay reset it, Kay still expects a motion for continuance. The rule is that the continuance has to be granted at least 1 day before the PNC. I asked her what to do if something came up the day of the PNC; if that happens, you are to get someone to cover your PNC.
Another rule is that your client does not have to attend the 1st PNC, unless there is an active warrant. If your client has an active warrant and does not appear, regardless of which number PNC it is, there will be a BF called. Since we don’t always know about any outstanding warrants, Kay suggests it would be best to just always have your client there.
A warning to each of us: even if you attend the PNC, and even if other attorneys see you there and vouch for you to Kay, a BF will still issue if you don’t speak to Kay. Specifically, she cited a problem with attorneys not wanting to wait in line to see her and leaving; other attorneys will say they saw that particular attorney there, but, if Kay didn’t see that attorney, there will be a BF called.
This is pretty untenable, unworkable, and makes life that much harder on all of us, but, unfortunately, we are being punished for a handful of attorneys who have apparently been less than truthful about their attendance at PNC’s.
One other thing Kay has told me is that she is frustrated with the PNC system, as well, and is looking to revamp it. That is another thing she, the judge and I will discuss. She says she’ll entertain suggestions on how to improve it. So, forward your suggestions to me, and I’ll see that they get to the judge and Kay. Please do not hesitate to contact me if any of this is unclear or if you have any questions.