The first night court in Riverhead Town Justice Court’s history will be held today beginning at 6 p.m.
The court will adjudicate small claims cases during its new evening sessions, said newly elected Town Justice Lori Hulse, who initiated the night court sessions. Night court will be held once a month, on the second Monday evening. Small claims cases will continue to be heard every Wednesday at 2 p.m.
Night court will allow flexibility for litigants and also ease some of the court’s backlog, allowing for an additional calendar of trial-ready cases, Hulse said in a press release announcing the changes.
Hulse made instituting night court in Riverhead part of her campaign platform when she sought the seat on the bench last year.
Small claims cases have a jurisdictional limit of $3,000 and are typically litigated by the parties themselves, Hulse explained. The proceedings are less formal, the rules of evidence and civil procedure are relaxed, and the court’s decision is based on “substantial justice” between the parties.
There are four cases scheduled for trial on the first night court calendar before Hulse tonight. Hulse and Justice Allen Smith will alternate presiding over night court.
The busy town court typically has 375-500 cases — criminal and civil, including landlord-tenant actions — on the docket every week.