Inner Workings of the Denver County Court
by Judge Andrew Armatas
As presiding judge of the Denver County Court, I am proud of the work our court staff, judges and magistrates do every day to achieve our mission statement: In our quest to be the best court anywhere, the Denver County Court’s mission is to: Administer justice fairly, efficiently and effectively. Provide excellent customer service. Foster a positive environment where employees enjoy their work.
With 190,285 cases filed in 2004, and an estimated 203,000 cases in 2005, this is no small task. The 2004 cases fell in the following categories:
As judicial officers, we recognize that most people don’t want to go to court, and that half of the parties will leave dissatisfied, angry or confused. Our job is to create a more pleasant experience. We attempt to lessen the sting by resolving disputes in an effective manner. Allow me to review the various divisions of our court:
Civil Division: Cases include contract disputes, wages, evictions and name changes. The monetary limit is $15,000. Small claims matters are limited to $7,500. There were 2,189 small claims cases filed in 2004. The Protective Orders court hears civil restraining orders. Denver County Court is one of the few courts in the United States to handle temporary and permanent restraining orders in a single courtroom.
Criminal Division: Adjudicates matters involving violations of the Colorado Revised Statues. The division hears misdemeanor offenses, which include driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving under restraint, and third-degree assault. In addition to four trial courtrooms, the criminal division operates two specialized courtrooms.
General Sessions Division: Handles violations of the Denver Revised Municipal Code. Cases involve domestic violence, shoplifting, animal control and other municipal violations. Included in this division is the municipal juvenile court (Courtroom 191J), which handles all matters involving defendants under 18 charged with a municipal ordinance violation. General violations hears matters where businesses or individuals are not in compliance with health, building, or other standards as set out in the Revised Municipal Code. Another unique court in this division is Courtroom 12T, located in the Pre-Arraignment Detention Facility, which deals with defendants who are generally in custody. Defendants might enter a guilty plea and receive an immediate sentence, or have their bond set and case scheduled for trial. Courtroom 12T also advises felony defendants of the charges against them at the first-and second-advisement stages.
Traffic Division: This division processes the largest volume of cases in the court, with more than 90,000 filings in 2004. In addition to accident tickets, such violations as no proof of insurance, no operator’s license, and speeding are common traffic offenses. Two daytime and three evening traffic courts are in session Monday through Friday. In addition, some 72,000 photo radar tickets were processed in 2004, through a joint effort between the traffic division, the police department and a private contractor to the city.
Parking Magistrate’s Office: This office provides an opportunity for the public to have an informal hearing to reconcile parking tickets. In 2004, the parking office saw 28,765 people. Of those, 28,091 had their tickets resolved the same day. The other 663 individuals chose to proceed to a parking final hearing. In 2004, the parking magistrate’s office initiated a new process of reviewing parking matters by mail and telephone. They handled 11,034 letters in 2004. This office is located in the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building at 204 W. Colfax.
Overall, I believe that Denver County Court has met the goals of our mission statement; but we recognize that we can strive to do better. To reduce FTA’s (failure to appear) we’ve instituted a system to call and remind persons of pending court dates. We do listen. We can improve. We care.