Aberdeen Court To Close Dec. 31

December 23, 1990|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

The county's satellite district court in Aberdeen -- the last of its kind in Maryland -- will close Dec. 31.

State officials, saying the facility at 58 N. Parke St. is no longer cost-effective, want to transfer its operations to the county's main district court building in Bel Air.

But Aberdeen officials are not happy with the state's decision to close the satellite facility. They say they understand the state's need to reduce costs, but they don't think cuts should come at their expense.

"We just want to let them know that we're not happy and that other people are not happy," Aberdeen Mayor George J. Englesson said.

Robert F. Sweeney, chief judge of the District Court of Maryland, said, "(The Aberdeen facility) is a waste of badly needed judicial manpower in the district court.

"The people in Harford County are not well-served by a makeshift facility."

Englesson said he and other Aberdeen officials want to meet with Sweeney to discuss alternatives to make it easier for the police agencies that use the satellite facility.

Sweeney said he would be happy to meet with Aberdeen officials after the first of the year -- after the satellite facility has closed.

Town officials want to keep some court services in Aberdeen so police officers don't have to keep traveling to Bel Air every time they have to conduct court business, Englesson said.

Sweeney said he is willing to allow a commissioner to be stationed in Aberdeen to issue arrest warrants and set bails. He said that court proceedings in Bel Air could be set on certain days of the week for cases from the Aberdeen area to make it convenient for police officers to set their schedules.

The state has wanted to close the Aberdeen facility for years, but those plans were not acted on until this fall as the caseload at the satellite court decreased, Sweeney said.

Proceedings at the Aberdeen facility are now conducted only three or four times a month, Sweeney said. "The docket just does not justify the judge being there."

The Aberdeen site also lacks jail cells for prisoners and cannot be connected to the state computer system.

The Aberdeen facility opened about 20 years ago when the state established the district court system, Sweeney said. Prior to 1970, the state had 300 magistrates with the duties now handled by the district courts.

When the district court system was set up, Harford County had facilities in Bel Air, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace, Sweeney said. The Havre de Grace facility closed years ago, but an exact date could not be determined.

The state has 35 district court facilities -- all located in courthouses -- plus the lone satellite facility in Aberdeen, Sweeney said.

Englesson said he and other town officials understand the state's reasoning for closing the facility. But he he hopes state officials will understand the town's need for court services.

"The days of court here have dwindled," Englesson said. "They've scheduled less and less here. . . . I don't know what we can do at this stage. We're hoping something can be worked out."

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