Did you know that there was night court in Kenosha? We didn’t. That was, until we did. Judge Richard Ginkowski holds night court on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 pm for the Village of Pleasant Prairie. He’s been elected to his post since 2012. He isn’t new to the criminal justice system, however. He was a cop, prosecutor, and now, a judge.
We asked Ginkowski if we could take a couple of photographs inside his courtroom while court was in session. He granted our request. As many of you know, photos can’t be taken during court in Wisconsin without permission from the judge. KCE didn’t photograph any defendants Wednesday evening. There weren’t any serious charges that warranted that.
Wednesday evening, we saw about 20 defendants appear for their initial court dates. Ginkowski started the session with an explanation of what each plea meant. He allows defendants to plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest. Many judges in Kenosha County don’t allow “no contest” pleas. It is essentially the same as a guilty plea, and you will be found guilty – some people simply think it sounds better.
Wednesday evening we saw OWI’s, citations for accidents, hit and run, following too closely and, not wearing a seatbelt. On interesting case was for a man who was carrying a concealed weapon without a license. He was licensed to do so in Illinois, but he had moved to Wisconsin, so he technically needed a license for WI. The Pleasant Prairie Police Officer cut him a big break and only wrote him a ticket, not ask for him to be criminally charged. He showed the Judge that he has since received his concealed carry card in Wisconsin. Ginkowski fined the man only $30.
Many people received tickets for emissions-related suspensions. Under Wisconsin law, said Ginkowski, you might be eligible for a waiver if the repair is more that $1,000. Many defendants were pulled over driving without insurance. For one such woman, Ginkowski suggested that she adjourn the case, giving her time to get insurance, and perhaps a break on the citation. “Would you rather pay money for a ticket, or pay money for insurance?” asked the judge.
After all of the cases for those present were called, Ginkowski then moved onto the larger part of the evening’s docket – the people who didn’t show up. Ginkowski then began to go through those citations. Some people got stamps of doom – “Guilty by Default.” Ginkowski took mercy on some of the lower-level citations and mailed them new summons to give them another chance to appear.
“Bull” was not present in court, but a member of the Pleasant Prairie Police Department was on hand to keep the peace.