I imagine that the number one New Years resolution for most people is losing a few pounds. Well the misdemeanor judges of Harris County, Texas seem to have gotten together and made their own resolution for 2011...a slimmer docket for each of their courts. Their first step is trying to reduce the number of times a case is reset in order to quickly dispose of that case. This is similar to the person that decides that they are going to fast in order to get to their target weight more quickly. What typically happens in those instances is that the person initially loses the weight, temporarily feels better about themselves, but eventually the weight comes back. Similarly, just because cases are reset a fixed number of times it does not necessarily mean that the docket will decrease. Perhaps, at first a lot of cases that were dragging along because of a lack of due diligence will be shed from their dockets, but what I envision happening is more cases being set for trial over the long haul. Once a fair amount of cases are set for trial that docket will start to balloon and affect the court. The courts will be unable to go to trial on every case that is set for trial, therefore, those cases will be reset for some time in the future and now the courts have a backlog of trials. The end result is that the docket has increased. The judges are also overlooking the fact that when they are in trial less work gets done. If a court is lucky enough to have three prosecutors two of them will likely be tied up during trial.
I always tell my clients that the judge is like a referee in a sporting competition. I have never played a sport where the referee tells the players how to play the game. The referees are there to make sure the players play within the rules. They do not tell a pitcher how fast to throw a ball, they do not tell a running back how fast to hit the hole, and they do not tell a boxer how many punches to throw in a round. They just make sure that the game is played fairly. The only concern a judge should have is ensuring that every citizen is treated fairly by the criminal justice system, not how quickly cases are closed out.
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