Courting Progress

Tucker Chief Judge Steve NicholasCode Process Streamlined as Court Opens in Tucker

One of the initial services Tucker took on from DeKalb County when it incorporated as a city in 2016 was Code Enforcement. The Code Enforcement process is quite simple: if you are in violation of, for example, the ordinance pertaining to grass height, you receive a notice of violation from a Code Enforcement officer. That notice of violation allows you ample time to come into compliance (i.e. cut your grass) and not face any legal or financial penalties. The majority of Code Enforcement notices of violation in the City of Tucker have this outcome. It represents a win for the City, the neighbors and that resident who was not punished.

But what happens if that person chooses not to come into compliance? This happens occasionally with overgrown lawns, unpermitted work, dilapidated buildings and other issues that violate the City Code. At that point, the resident would be issued a citation from the Code Enforcement officer and they would have to go to court to present their case before a judge.

As a brand-new city, Tucker opted not to construct a courthouse on Day One of cityhood. Realizing that would be a costly and complicated endeavor, city leaders instead turned to their neighbors in Clarkston with a proposal to share that city’s courthouse. Those conversations resulted in an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) where Tucker paid Clarkston for use of its courtroom and initially their staff on a monthly then bimonthly basis.

One of the big changes happening in 2020 is that Tucker is now housing its own court dates. The third and fourth Wednesdays of each month will see cases adjudicated here in Tucker, a move that has a significant impact on several groups of people.

Holding court in Clarkston was difficult for defendants. Aside from the confusion of going to a different city for things that happened here in Tucker, they would often have to drive back to Tucker to pay a court fine, rather than paying the fine right there at the court.

No longer. Payments will be made outside the courtroom at a secure window staffed by members of Team Tucker. Defendants and their attorneys will have nicer dedicated spaces to meet and talk with the City Solicitor at or before trial. There is also ample onsite parking for those attending court sessions.

Tucker’s City Clerk and Court staff bore the brunt of holding court in a different city. For two and a half years they carted files and materials from their offices here in Tucker all the way to Clarkston to set up what was essentially a temporary workspace twice a month.

This new move will allow staff members to save the time and effort of moving everything around. Court sessions will be held at the City Hall Annex (4228 First Avenue), where City Council meetings are also conducted. Staff members have offices onsite and the solicitors and judges will have dedicated space to work before, during or after those court sessions.

It has been well-documented that the Code Enforcement process loses money for the City of Tucker. That’s right, in terms of pure dollars and cents, the City loses money on Code Enforcement. That’s largely because the process is not meant to be punitive, but to bring violators into compliance without penalty.

In reality, it has a positive impact on property values and the overall appearance of the City, meaning the net value of the Code Enforcement process makes it worthwhile.

But on the topic of dollars and cents, one of the ways the process has lost money to this point is through holding court in someone else’s building. Under that IGA, Tucker was paying $2,400 per month for the use of Clarkston’s courtroom. By holding court sessions here in Tucker, the City will be moving to a facility where they are already paying rent, thus making the process a little less costly to the City’s bottom line.

It is important to note that this court move has no impact on where you show up for traffic tickets. Tucker has dates for environmental court (Code Enforcement offenses) and offenses court (lesser legal charges like public intoxication or citation for being in a park after hours). But, for now, if you receive a traffic ticket in the City of Tucker or are charged with a felony offense, you will still go through the County to resolve it.

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