DeKalb approves $775K settlement in Recorder’s Court lawsuit

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DeKalb commissioners on Tuesday approved a $775,000 settlement in a lawsuit brought by residents who said they were wrongfully arrested due to dysfunction within the county’s now-defunct Recorder’s Court.

The federal lawsuit, originally filed in 2015, was brought by 17 people who were arrested because court personnel either erroneously told the Georgia Department of Driver Services that their licenses were suspended, or failed to tell the agency that their licenses had been reinstated.

The lawsuit was one of several filed around the same time, all challenging various aspects of how business was done at the Recorder’s Court. Other suits claimed that the court did not even have jurisdiction to handle traffic offenses; that it operated as “a scheme to generate revenue for a cash-strapped local government”; and that defendants received sentences longer than Georgia law allowed.

Georgia’s General Assembly dissolved the court in 2015. Traffic cases are now handled in DeKalb State Court.

The suit characterized the Recorder’s Court as having a “documented history of institutional ineptitude” and accused court leaders of adopting policies that “constituted deliberate indifference” to the due process of defendants. It provided examples of each plaintiff being arrested and spending time in jail because of clerical errors by the court.

The lead attorney for the plaintiffs, William Atkins, declined to comment on the settlement approved by commissioners because it was not yet finalized. A DeKalb County spokesman did the same.