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Judge sets new rules for paying old fines

Pay your district court fine on time or be prepared to spend time in jail.

That’s the message Special Letcher District Judge Ron Johnson sent on August 7 when he ordered that extensions and other decisions on paying on fines will be up to the judge only.

Letcher District and Circuit Clerk Margaret S. Nichols mailed letters on August 10 notifying county residents who have unpaid fines that the policy for collecting payments in the circuit clerk’s office has changed.

"When (Johnson) sets a court date on your return slip, you will need to appear in court on that date unless you have your courtordered payment paid in full before that date," wrote Nichols.

Nichols explained that persons needing more time to pay fines must ask Johnson.

"Unless you have a valid excuse for not having your court-ordered payment paid in full he (Johnson) will be ordering jail time," wrote Nichols. "If you fail to appear, he will then order a bench warrant and/or suspend your driving privileges."

The sentence for every $10 owed in fines is one day in jail.

Johnson, a former district and circuit judge in neighboring Harlan County, is a senior status judge who was assigned to Letcher County in the wake of the illness of Judge Jim Wood.

Wood’s practice was to allow people to pay their fines at a rate of $20 a month. If a defendant failed to pay or got behind, a show cause order would be issued and the defendant ordered back to court for an explanation. Johnson’s order says that no more "show cause hearings" will be available to a defendant before action is taken to collect a fine.

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