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County halts fine pay-outs

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE — Ellis County court officials have summarily called a halt to their fine extension program.

'It has been a successful program,' said Judge Bob Carroll to a crowd of more than 300 individuals, who had appeared in court on Friday, Nov. 17. 'We collect over $10,000 on these days. But we just do not have the resources to handle these numbers of people.'

'There are no more fine pay-out plans available,' repeated Sharon McKinney, a court official. 'It's cutbacks - I'm sorry.'

Carroll quickly read through the document defendants would be expected to sign before leaving court:

'I understand that I am responsible for paying my fine and court costs in full on or before Jan. 31, 2001, at 4 p.m. at the Ellis County Clerk's Office,' the document said. 'I further understand that failure to pay my fine and court costs in full… shall result in the issuance of a capias pro fine arrest warrant. I further understand that this arrest warrant shall be placed in a State wide computer data bank system and that any Peace Officer in the State of Texas can arrest me based upon this warrant.

'I further understand that this arrest warrant along with my name and identity is public information and may be published in the newspaper. I further represent that I have the financial ability to pay the fine and court costs in full on or before Jan. 31, 2001.'

McKinney read the document again for the benefit of the numerous people who were out in the hallway due to crowded conditions in the courtroom.

'If you have a reason that you can't pay,' McKinney continued, 'you can sit in the gallery and the judge will talk to you. But I'll tell you right now, just not having a job is not it!'

One Spanish-speaking man tried to ask questions about the document, which McKinney attempted to answer primarily by reading the document over to him slowly. Finally she said, 'Just sign here,' and the man did so. 

'Maybe you should give him a copy of it,' said a bailiff. 'So he can show it to a translator.'

Most of the defendants seemed primarily concerned with getting through the line and out of the court in a timely manner. Only a handful gathered in the 'gallery' to await a one-on-one discussion with the judge.

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