A bill was heard on the House floor Monday that if passed could raise revenue for city courts in Minden and Springhill as well as take a load off district courts.
Minden City Judge Sherb Sentell says HB 29 will allow his office to streamline records as well as hire a juvenile probation officer.
“I’m trying to look at every way possible to increase the court’s revenue to upgrade our software from the DOS operating system we’re currently using,” he said. “My number two reason is I want to have a program in place for our kids to get counseling if they need it, and some of them are at risk youth.”
Right now, he can’t afford to hire a juvenile officer to put a program of this nature in place.
The bill would raise the monetary threshold to file a civil suit from $35,000 to $50,000. Anything above $35,000 must be filed in district court, Sentell says.
What they are asking for is within the average of what other municipal court systems have, Sentell says, and he has support for this bill.
“Theoretically, the district judges would have more time to handle felony criminal matters,” he said. “It just makes it more efficient to handle smaller litigation.”
He clarified this has nothing to do with misdemeanor versus felony cases, but rather civil matters. He gave the example that if a car company files suit against someone because they are behind on their bill for a $36,000 vehicle, that case would have to be filed in district court. If the threshold was raised, it would put it back into city court.
City court is funded through court costs and filing fees, Sentell says. Minden City Court and Ward I bring in roughly $366,000 per year, and their expenses are about the same.
The software he wants to purchase will cost about $150,000. The software will streamline court documents and free up court employees by not having to manually look up information for people who call in. If someone misses a court date for a driving offense, then the software electronically sends a notice to the Department of Motor Vehicles, he says.
“It tracks probation fees, it tracks all that stuff,” he said. “It gives us statistics like how many kids we have on probation, and right now we have no way of tracking that except by hand. It’s very difficult to get a big picture of where we are without having case management software.”
Other bills set to head to the House floor by Rep. Gene Reynolds is the textbook bill, which will allow faculty to go straight to the publisher to get textbooks, the Minden downtown development director’s bill, which changes the language of how the commission is appointed and who has the right to hire and fire the director, as well as others.