It could take seven months to see a judge on a contested traffic ticket in Multnomah County, Ore., because more than 10,000 contested tickets are in line ahead of you, reports the Oregonian in Portland. “We’ve got 6,000 of these to schedule,” said a clerk who answered the phone last week when pressed for an explanation. Actually, it’s worse. There are 6,400 pending cases on top of 4,000 scheduled ones. Fines for tickets jumped dramatically last year, giving drivers more reason to fight rather than admit guilt and pay. The state legislature limited judges’ discretion to reduce fines. Tickets that once could have been cut in half by the judge now can be reduced by only 25 percent. At the same time, police handed out nearly 30,000 more tickets last year, a 23 percent increase.
That resulted in a unique pileup. Portland, which has no municipal court, funnels its huge volume of traffic tickets to state court for processing. With state courts cutting staff because of budget problems, they have been unable to keep pace with an apparently higher-than-normal demand for trials. The backlog in the courts hasn’t prompted changes in enforcement. “This doesn’t slow us down from issuing citations,” said Cmdr. Mike Garvey of the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division. Countywide, 10,000 new citations are being filed each month on average.