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FOX 5 I-Team

I-TEAM: No-Show judges at the Atlanta Municipal Court

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ATLANTA -

On a rainy Monday morning, hundreds line up at the Atlanta Municipal Court. Most of them made the trek for the same reason; to resolve a traffic ticket. But it turns out some made the trip for nothing. The judge had the day off.

Quantez Hendricks not only missed work, he had to pay for a bus ride - in the rain - only to be told - no judge. "Extremely upset ...taking away from people's lives."

Chief Judge Herman Sloan says he doesn't know what happened the day we visited court. He believes judges do notify the public when they will be out. Judge Sloan says, "If you are going to be off on a planned day, you would notify people you were being off. I assume all the judges do that."

Judge Sloan says hiring fill-in judges is not in the budget. But he says there are other ways to get your case handled, even without a judge. If eligible, you can sign up for the Pre-Trial Intervention Program, or he says some cases can be transferred to another judge's court. But last fall, Court Administrator Christopher Patterson told the City Council that often cases have to be rescheduled and citizens have to make another trip downtown.

But that second trip? It will not be on a Friday, because there is no regularly scheduled court on Friday. Years ago, when a bad economy forced the city to furlough workers, Friday court was cut out. The furloughs ended, but the judges, who make $155,500 a year, decided to keep their four day workweek.

Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms says she doesn't understand the practice. "I'm a taxpayer. Every other department expected to be up and operating five days a week. I expect the same thing from our court system." Judge Sloan says returning to a five day work week could put the court over budget.

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