LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - At the Lubbock County Commissioner’s Court Monday morning, Justice of the Peace Pct. 2 Susan Rowley requested the court’s approval to purchase a laptop and other equipment, but the reason behind the request left commissioners stunned.
Rowley told the court she needed to take her work home because she discovered a backlog of 26,000 cases.
“It’s unprecedented to have a backlog like that,” Rowley said.
When Rowley took office in January, she said she asked the district court administrator to run a spreadsheet on pending cases.
Rowley said the administrator sent her roughly 800 pages of documents that consisted of more than 19,000 criminal cases and more than 7,000 civil cases.
“My jaw dropped,” Rowley said.
“Most of these tickets don’t have complaints on them. We are talking thousands of active warrants for tickets that should have been, must have been dismissed two years after the ticket was given,” Rowley said.
Rowley said it is the court’s job to follow-up with the arresting officer to file a complaint with the case, but in thousands of cases, that was not done.
“I don’t want to be the one responsible now knowing that there are all of those warrants out there and some individuals are sitting in jail on tickets that must have been dismissed up to 20 years ago. I am working very, very hard with the D.A.'s office to get these resolved,” Rowley said.
Rowley said she will work with the district attorney’s office to plan a mass dismissal.
“The precinct is not going to get any of that revenue, but it’s what I have to do,” Rowley said.
We asked Rowley how many people she believes may be sitting in jail right now on tickets that have passed the statute of limitations.
“I hope not very many, I really do. I mean, it scares me thinking how many could be,” Rowley said.
“I have already talked to Judge McNamara who is the magistrate and I said, 'If you see anybody who is in jail who comes before you for the initial arraignment and you see J.P. 2 and you see an old ticket number, give them a personal recognizance bond and send them to my court and we will see if it’s something that should have been dismissed. I want to protect the citizens who have these old cases so they won’t get arrested because it’s not fair and it shouldn’t have happened,” Rowley said.
Rowley said she has new staff and is in the process of hiring a part-time employee.
“I took my computer home this weekend and was doing ticket entries‚ which is what the clerks do, but I have to help them because they have so much on their plate right now,” Rowley said.
She plans on asking commissioners for approval to add one more person to her staff in October.
Rowley hopes to work with the district attorney’s office to have the backlog resolved in the next three months.