Kiwanis met Tuesday, April 19th at Lynda’s Country Kitchen for our weekly meeting. The guest speaker was City Judge Keith Gates. There are two divisions to the city court-civil and criminal. The court serves the city of Winnfield and any ward that touches the city boundary. This includes all but one ward. There is not much criminal court that involves outside the city because that is under the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office, however, the civil court is about ½ city and ½ parish. They handle credit card suits, rental evictions and garnishments. For the criminal court they handle misdemeanors, traffic stops, anything that is 6 months or less in jail, theft under $1000, shoplifting, marijuana, and domestic violence. If strangling is involved in domestic violence it would be handled by the district court because that is attempted murder which is a felony.
The city court had 1400 cases last year which is up from previous years. The biggest docket since 2005 was in August of last year because of seat belt tickets. People get in trouble when they don’t show up for court. That increases the amount they have to pay. The office of the city court gets part of the criminal monies but the judge gets nothing. The state Supreme Court gets 50 cents on everything that is filed. There is no juvenile facility in our area yet every month money is sent to an address in Pollock, La. for a facility that is not there. There is no assistant district attorney for the city but there is a city prosecutor who is Clay Carroll from Jonesboro.
Gates says his time spent out of court is dealing with felonies and signing warrants. He signs warrants for the city and Judge Wiley signs warrants for the sheriff. They do help each other out if necessary. There is a 72 hour hearing by phone and he sets bail. When in court, Gates reads the rights of the defendant before he starts so he knows they understand.
Judge Gates spends about half his time as the city judge and the other half he spends on his practice. He has cut back and doesn’t go court on contested cases. He does title insurance and land transactions, mainly.