North Texas Daily

Court on Campus gives students opportunity to address court violations

Court on Campus gives students opportunity to address court violations

Court on Campus gives students opportunity to address court violations
December 09
21:33 2022

The university hosted its first Court on Campus event on Wednesday in the Senate Chambers, allowing students to clear up municipal court violations and warrants.

Denton Municipal Court, Student Legal Services, the Dean of Students and the Student Government Association sponsored the event.

“It’s basically a come-and-go community event,”  said Grant Johnson, a political science senior and SLS intern. “And so, using [the sponsorships], that’s how we’re able to make it a successful event.”

Denton Municipal Court Judge Tyler Atkinson participated in similar events in Fort Worth before proposing the Court on Campus event. During his time as a municipal court judge in Fort Worth, Atkinson was part of the transition to a municipal court system that went to the people to clear warrants and tickets.

“[In Fort Worth], the court went out to the community — Goodwills, libraries, community centers,” Atkinson said. “People could come there instead of having to go down to the court in order to talk to the judge and have tickets taken care of.”

Now a municipal court judge in Denton, Atkinson proposed the event to the university. Johnson said the goal is for students to avoid the “ribbons and prestige of the court” and to create a relaxing environment for students. 

The open-door event lasted four hours, giving students time to come and deal with their personal affairs without time constraints. Hospitality management sophomore Camila Martinez attended the event early.

“I felt very comfortable talking with them — they all made me feel welcomed and were very nice,” Martinez said. “It helped me a lot because I don’t have to go all the way to court to get my ticket resolved.”

Judge Tyler Atkinson speaks to a student about similar events to Court on Campus at the University of North Texas on Dec. 7, 2022. Photo by Matt Iaia

Around 130 students attended the event during those four hours.

“Really, it’s for the students,” said Ari La Mastra, a political science junior and SLS legal assistant. “We want the students to be able to get access to a lot of opportunities, and this is an opportunity for students who have tickets, citations or warrants to have a quick stop [on] campus to be able to get all of their needs done.“

After the event, Atkinson gave a presentation on his role as a magistrate and answered questions in a Q&A session hosted by SGA President Jermaine “JT” Turner and Vice President Aalyhia Shillow. Questions focused on Atkinson’s background, his advice to law students and the reason he created and held the event.

“The philosophical discussion among courts is whether court is a place or court is a service,” Atkinson said. “And so, for courts that embraced virtual court, and then online options, they put their eggs in the basket that court is a service.”

Atkinson’s goal, besides ease of service, is to make the court a comfortable experience. Atkinson said that he recognizes the stigma around courts and wants to make it simpler for students.

“The court itself is a ‘safe harbor’ court, meaning that if you come in to see us even if you have a [Class C] warrant, you’re not going to be arrested,” Atkinson said. “An event where the court comes on campus, it has the goal of making it to where it’s their home turf, and so that they would be less likely to be afraid of talking to the court about the tickets.”

La Mastra said if student demand increases for the event, there may be a chance that the event will be held each semester.

“If we do have a big amount of students wanting this, we would more than likely, definitely want to make this a regular occurrence,” La Mastra said.

Featured Image: Members of the University of North Texas Student Government Association, Division of Student Affairs Student Legal Services and Dean of Students office pose for a photo at the Court on Campus event on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. Photo by Matt Iaia

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Ismael M. Belkoura

Ismael M. Belkoura

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