Feb. 27, 2001 PROBE

February 27, 2001

QUESTION: When I got a traffic ticket it said I should appear at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 20. On the appointed day I took a day off work and appeared.

A sign on the door at the court stated: "If you do not see your name on the above list, talk to the clerk." My name was not on the list.

I got in a long line and waited to see the clerk. When I got to the window, I told the clerk my name was not on the list.

She took the copy of my ticket, left, returned five minutes later and said, "One-hundred, sixty five dollars plus $24 if you want to go to court."


"I want to see the judge. I took the day off from work to be here," I said.

She wanted to know if I had proof of registration and insurance. I produced the documents.

"When can I see the judge? Today?," I asked.

She said I would have to make an appointment.

"Call in a week," she suggested.

Call in a week! If a ticketed motorist fails to appear by the date and time set by the court, traffic ticket or summons, the "failure to appear" could result in arrest.

I am not guilty but that did not count. Nor did it count that I took a day off work to appear in court. Since the judge was not there, my case should have been dismissed.

Instead the court used a ploy to frustrate me into paying a fine instead of having my day in court, which is my right! — Fined, Imperial

Goodness, you quoted enough legal code sections to fill a shelf in the law library. You may even be right.

But the court may be better at this than you. This is how its members make their living.

Read the fine print on your ticket (on a ticket, it's all fine print).

Just below your signature, it says you must appear "Before a judge or a CLERK of the municipal court."

Actually, you didn't pay a "fine," you posted "bail." In this instance, jumping bail is accepted practice. Once you've posted bail, it's OK to fail to appear.

You could have seen the judge (traffic court referee) if he had been at the court that day but he wasn't there, according to Margaret Navarro, court clerk supervisor.

The traffic referee splits time among all the municipal courts in the Valley, she said.

QUESTION: Calexico's "big box" ordinance sends a sour message to any large company seeking to do business in Calexico. When you are in business you have to accept competition gracefully. Why is the City Council listening to just a group of grocers? — Taxpayer, Calexico

You know what they say, "The squeaking wheel gets the grease." The grocers are squealing like pigs caught under a gate.

You can't blame them. They are fighting for their economic lives. It may be a battle they can't win.

Most people in Calexico are consumers, not merchants. When push comes to shove, they may side with "big box" stores with the promise of lower food prices.

The Calexico Chamber of Commerce has taken no position on the issue beyond: "We support business."

"If we took sides on this, it would rip the chamber apart," said one member.

QUESTION: I just watched "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World" on satellite television. There were several references to Plaster City. Was there really a Pete's Garage out there? — Mechanic, Seeley

As we recall, there wasn't much of anything in Plaster City except maybe Sheetrock when the movie was made in 1963. OK, PROBE readers, if Pete had a garage in Plaster City, let us know.

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