Drivers who fight their cases in traffic court in Collier County, Florida are getting punished more harshly than motorists in other counties.
That’s what attorneys Mark Gold and Ted Hollander of The Ticket Clinic in West Palm Beach determined while traveling statewide representing motorists in traffic cases. And they’re accusing Collier County judges of conspiring to prejudge cases to whittle down their increased caseloads.
The dispositions grew even more severe after state budget cuts eliminated hearing officers, resulting in Collier County judges presiding over traffic cases beginning on April 1, adding to their caseloads.
The lawyers reviewed their cases and statewide statistics, determining that about 86 percent of those who contested their cases in Collier County were found guilty of speeding, compared with 5 percent statewide.
And 40 percent here were hit with license suspensions.
“That’s astronomical,” said Hollander, whose firm specializes in traffic tickets. “Nowhere do you see anything like that.”
Gold and Hollander said their clients also were being denied hardship licenses, which allow motorists to drive only to and from work.
They thought something unusual was going on, so they sought judges’ e-mails under the state public records law. They got 42. One provided insight.
An April 4 e-mail from County Judge Vince Murphy to all Collier County judges said he was writing to tell judges how he and Judge Eugene Turner handled cases that first day of traffic court. It referred to Hollander’s and Gold’s local co-counsel, Naples attorney Lee Carney, saying he set several cases for afternoon hearings to work out plea deals with law officers for withholds of adjudication. He urged judges not to accept deals once a case reaches hearing day.
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