Court funding crisis: my ideas to stop the bleeding

http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/article1195590.ece

An informative article from TampaBay.com. But there is more to the crisis than just foreclosures. There’s a lot that can be done to cut costs.

Prosecutors, please have some basic professionalism. I constantly have trouble resolving cases because I can’t get the prosecutor to call me back. I dont know what a single hearing costs, but double or triple that cost depending on the number of times it has to be reset because the prosecutor “still has to talk to the accuser” or “my chief isn’t here, so I can’t get an answer.” Return phone calls and move the cases. Tightening up in that regard could cut down on tens of thousands of hearings yearly.

Next, stop overcharging people and forcing lengthy litigation. If my client shouldn’t have to plea to something you can’t prove, we’re having a trial. Charge what you can prove, make a reasonable offer, and defendants will resolve their cases.

On that note, be reasonable. Not every person needs to be adjudicated. Not every person needs jail time. Offer pre-trial intervention for first-timers. Offer “time served” for petty cases. Shorten your long probation offers. And STOP LETTING YOUR SO-CALLED “VICTIMS” RUN YOUR PROSECUTIONS.

Prosecutors, send me the discovery you are required to send by rule. Look at your case up front, and get your act together. Order the reports, photos, videos, etc at the beginning of the case and turn them over. Don’t parse out the discovery disclosure here and there, and don’t make me beg for it. That results in unnecessary continuances and wasteful hearings.

Judges, permit defendants to waive their presence at court. Knock out 2/3s of the everyday courthouse traffic, and you won’t need so much security. Plus, end the docket quicker and those prosecutors can work on their cases (see above). This concept of “I want the defendant present” for no reason, and when you don’t even look at them when they are there, is so wasteful.

Judges, if someone does fail to appear, set a bond on the capias. That way we don’t have to have a bond hearing, at which time you’ll usually reinstate bond anyway. Cut to the chase.

Don’t transport jail defendants for every little hearing. Not every hearing is a “critical” hearing that legally requires their presence. That would save millions on transport and security.

Judges, train your judicial assistants to work as hard and as long as you do. We all know which JA’s I’m talking about – the ones that won’t give us a simple, 5-minute hearing tomorrow that can resolve the case (instead telling us there’s “no time” or “we only do those hearings once a month”). Move the meat!

Clerks, get your funding right and get electronic. The Federal Courts use PACER and CMECF, both of which are flawless. That will save money on labor, paper, postage, storage, etc – and make the system more efficient. U know: I practice in the Federal system, and I can vouch for it.

Public defenders, permit your clients to plea at arraignment if they so desire. Your funding is different from that of the court. You get more money if a client pleads AFTER arraignment. But resetting a case for a day, week, or month later, costs the courts money. Your policy of “no plea at arraignment” gets you additional funding yet loses money for the court system – all while the defendant sits in jail for that extra time. Seriously!!

While the foreclosure crisis is having a heavy toll, it’s not the only hemorrhage in the system. There are more cost-saving ideas we could come up with. I urge everyone to listen and work toward implementing cost-cutting policies as soon as possible.

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