Numerous people behind in paying fines to the office of District Judge Gary A. Whiteman got an unexpected surprise Wednesday night when a state constable showed up at their front door ready to take them to court.
Whiteman held an unannounced "night court" session at his office in Loyalsock Township from 5 to 10 p.m.
During that time, a team of 10 constables went out looking for people who had either defaulted on their payment schedules or failed to answer court-issued notices altogether.
"Twenty-three people came through the door and we addressed 35 open cases," Whiteman said.
"It was all summary violations, ranging from speeding to public drunkenness," Whiteman said, adding that during that five-hour period, his office took in about $3,200.
One person who owed in excess of $1,000 in fines ponied up $500 in order to stay out of jail.
"The telephones here were busy and people were also calling on their cellphones" Whiteman said, adding that many of those in custody were using the office's two public telephones to reach a family member, a friend, anyone who could help them bring in the money.
The night court session allowed people "to set up new payment schedules, and at the same time, allowed us to give the signal that we're serious about people meeting their obligations when it comes to payments," Whiteman said.
Only two of the 23 people brought before Whiteman on Wednesday night ended up in jail because they were unable to make any payments whatsoever. A third person brought in by the constables was automatically incarcerated on a bench warrant, Whiteman said.
"Part of my job is collections. Incarceration is a strong incentive in getting people current on their bills owed to the court," he said.
"Business here was very steady, and I'm very pleased with how it went," Whiteman said, adding that two members of his office staff assisted him with the night court proceedings.