A Dallas County justice of the peace is throwing out thousands of cases that have been filed in the court over the last twenty years and never disposed of.
A whopping 15,000 cases will be dismissed by Justice of the Peace Katina Whitfield. Among the dismissals are 10,000 misdemeanor traffic tickets and 5,640 hot check cases that were never handled by the court.
“I was completely shocked. Actually, I expected there to be a backlog. I didn't expect it to be this much,” Whitfield said.
The backlog spans three administrations of justices of the peace before Whitfield took office in January. Justice of the peace’s preside over small claims like debt claims, eviction cases, traffic tickets and hot checks.
Whitfield says her predecessors took the initial steps on the cases but never followed through. The thousands of cases were never set for court, meaning traffic tickets went unresolved and no warrants were issued for people who wrote hot checks.
Whitfield expects the number of cases she will have to dismiss simply because of the age of the cases will climb as the review continues.
District Attorney John Creuzot says he supports Whitfield’s dismissals of all the cases.
“That could probably never be prosecuted anyway and I fully support her efforts to do so and in fact we're gonna work with other J.P.'s to do the same thing,” Creuzot said.
Whitfield is also working on a current backlog of nearly 400 cases from 2017 that can still be adjudicated. Whitfield will be holding night court sessions to catch up.
The Dallas County Commissioners Court is likely to discuss the issue at Tuesday’s meeting.