Justice court keeps quite busy

By Craig Wismer
Posted 3/9/20

I can’t count the number of times someone has asked me how many cases the Arrowhead Justice Court handles annually. The reason I can’t count the number is because I don’t think it has ever happened.

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Justice court keeps quite busy

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Posted

I can’t count the number of times someone has asked me how many cases the Arrowhead Justice Court handles annually. The reason I can’t count the number is because I don’t think it has ever happened.

That being said, in case you have even a passing interest in the subject, here are some statistics for 2019.

Driving under the influence charges, 288; other criminal traffic violations, 568; other serious violations, 31; civil traffic charges, 4,225; other misdemeanor criminal offenses, 326; small claims cases, 427; eviction actions, 2,851; other civil cases, 3,968; orders of protection, 223; and injunctions against harassment, 123.

The above numbers calculate to 13,030 cases filed in the Arrowhead Justice Court, and that figure is fairly typical from one year to the next. One thing that isn’t typical, however, is the number of civil cases in which bankruptcy is involved. While I can’t quantify for you the percentage of cases that are impacted by defendants filing for bankruptcy, as of late it seems to be occurring with increasing frequency.

Pursuant to federal law, once someone files for bankruptcy a court is required to halt adjudication of the case for a period not to exceed four months. If a United States Bankruptcy Court hasn’t given permission to proceed by, or prior to, the expiration of that period of time the case will be dismissed without prejudice.

If the case is in a post-adjudication status, by that I mean judgment has been entered, the filing of bankruptcy stays any collection activity, such as garnishment of wages or property (e.g. bank accounts) by the judgment creditor until such time as the bankruptcy issue is resolved. If the debt in question is discharged, the judgment in a limited jurisdiction court would likely be vacated and the case ordered dismissed.

On a final note, the Arizona Supreme Court last year approved changes to the Arizona Court Rules of Procedure for eviction actions, specifically that a copy of the pertinent section of a lease agreement be served upon a defendant as well as, in cases alleging nonpayment of rent, a six-month ledger (i.e. charges and payments). This new service requirement is in addition to the summons, complaint and residential eviction information sheet.

The point I’m making is that anyone who is a party to a written lease agreement and is subject to an eviction action should, beginning Jan. 1 of this year, receive more information at the time they are served with papers that details the reason the lawsuit was filed against them.

Mr. Wismer is justice of the peace of the Arrowhead Justice Court.

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