The Orem City Council unanimously passed a resolution Oct. 29 requesting the recertification of the Orem Justice Court.
The Orem court and all Utah Justice Courts must complete recertification every four years according to Judge Reed Parkin. Parkin has been Orem’s Justice Court judge for nine years.
There are two types of Justice Courts — one at the county level, the other at the city level. In Orem, the Justice Court hears Class B misdemeanors and lower, traffic code violations, small claims of $11,000 or lower, and criminal charges. A Class B misdemeanor allows for up to 180 days in Jail and/or a fines and fees up to $1,300.
There are 105 Justice Courts in the state, according to Parkin.
The Judicial Council is the governing body of the state Judiciary, grants recertification and is unique to Utah. The council has 12 members made from a variety of Judges from district to appellate or Supreme Court. The council sets the recertification rules.
According to Parkin there are three components to being recertified. First, they must have an affidavit from the judge they are compliant. They then must receive a letter from the city attorney, from their perspective, if the court is in compliance. Finally, the city council must pass the resolution for recertification.
Jody Thenot, court administrator, said the Orem court has five full-time and three part-time employees to help run the court. That does not include the judge or prosecutors.
“The prosecutor represents the city in court every day, “Parkin said. “The city has a voice every day.”
Sometimes the need arises in court for language services, as the language of the court is English and requires court translators when needed. Parkin said he has had cases in Spanish, Arabic, Tai and many more.
When it comes to working with and serving the public, Thenot said it’s constant.
“Next to the 311 office, we are the busiest office in the city,” Thenot said.
Parkin added, “My clerks execute more orders, based on my standing orders, outside of the courts presence.”
The number of cases and filings that come through the court each year is indicative of the amount of work load Parkin and his staff are encountering.
In 2018, the court averaged 995.42 traffic cases a month. That included DUI/impaired charges, moving violations, non-moving violations, driver license violation charges and more.
The monthly average for criminal filings in 2018 was 126.58. Those filings include assault charges, theft, alcohol violations, controlled substance, domestic abuse, animal violation charges and zoning charges. Other charges include criminal mischief, trespassing, disorderly conduct, bad checks, etc.
The court has a monthly average of 41.25 small claims and had 282 small claims trials in 2018.
In the first 10 months of 2019, the monthly averages for traffic cases were down at 851.4. Criminal filings were down to 109.6 and small claims were up slightly to 42.3.
Thenot said the mission of Justice Courts in Utah is to, “improve the quality of life in our communities.”