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Detroit’s Beleaguered 36th District Court Making Strides Despite City’s Bankruptcy

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36th District Court (WWJ Photo/Beth Fisher)

36th District Court (WWJ Photo/Beth Fisher)

Charlie-Langton Charlie Langton
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DETROIT (WWJ/AP) A special administrator assigned to fix Detroit’s troubled 36th District Court says the court’s financial and operational problems have been resolved — mostly.

The second largest court in the state, which has a $31 million annual budget and was once mired in disorganization — is emerging into the light, according to Judge Michael Talbot, who is overseeing it.

Talbot was appointed in May to oversee the former Recorder’s Court by the Michigan Supreme Court after the National Center for State Courts found the court was faced with financial mismanagement, a severely backlogged docket and bloated payroll.

According to the Associated Press, the court was $5 million over its $31 million budget, and court officials had failed to collect on $279 million in driving tickets, ordinance violations and misdemeanor fines.

Even in the midst of the city’s bankruptcy filing, Talbot said the court is making big strides.

“We’re feeling our way a little bit, all of us are,” he said of running a court during bankruptcy, adding, “All my bills are being paid, all my vendors are being taken care of … Everybody’s been taken care of.”

He added he’s worked on streamlining and organizing the facility so it’s easier to use for its customers, both lawyers and defendants in matters big and small.

“We are now on budget, that is critical, we are right-sized in terms of staffing, personnel,” Talbot said. “We are making life a littler easier on the lawyers, there isn’t this wandering about the building trying to find their case, find the judge. Assignments are much clearer. We have simplified things in terms of jury service, we have simplified things in terms of felony exams, we have certainly simplified things in terms of traffic tickets.”

One of the things now in place has police departments appointing just a couple of representatives to go to court to handle traffic ticket negotiations, which Talbot says makes the system more organized and keeps more officers on the street at any given time.

But he does have a few issues left to tackle.

“I’ve got long-term labor agreements, were still negotiating, I hope those are resolved as soon as possible. I need to strentchen the management staff,” Talbot said, adding, “I need desperately to secure financing for short-term stay jail beds … I need financing to pay for those beds so I’m trying to work that problem through.”

He also wants physical upgrades to the building. “I’ve got to make it easier for the customers, a little more open, more accessible. I need the physical plant to have more acceptable working conditions for employees,” Talbot said, adding “I’ll get it done, I’ll get it done.'”

*The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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