Well, it doesn't look like the Fire Marshal's Office or anybody else in control of safety, order, or reason at the CJC is going to be doing anything to help the nightmarish situation that occurs at the elevator banks every weekday morning.
Here's a view from last week at the bank:
I've been saying somebody would get hurt with all the crowding, and someone finally did. Attorney Mary Moore got one hell of a bruise on her arm by a defendant slamming his way into an elevator that was already filled to capacity. According to Mary, the defendant was unapologetic, but pointed out he couldn't be late for court.
The Commissioner's Court and the Fire Marshals aren't doing too much investigating in the mornings because they are most likely terrified of what the results of that investigation would show:
That the Harris County Criminal Justice Center is a poorly designed and poorly created multi-million dollar building that requires drastic structural changes to make it safe for the public. That would cost millions of dollars that the County just doesn't have to spend right now -- not to mention the havoc that would be created while construction to fix the problems was taking place.
They need about four more elevators on each side of the building and a floor plan that doesn't create the insane bottleneck that we all know and love every morning.
Or, we could re-evaluate some docket scheduling matters that might help it as well.
Why do Harris County Criminal Courts at law make all people on bond come to court every 2-3 weeks? Why don’t the courts give the defendant’s lawyers enough time to investigate the case and then come back to court when they are ready to do something on the case, like plead or go to trial?
This is completely unnecessary and a monumental waste of time for lawyers, defendants (people who have real lives and real jobs yet people who are being forced to take off work for almost a full day while their case is pending, people who are “presumed” at this point to be innocent. Why can’t Harris County follow proper manners and etiquette and extend a little professional courtesy to the people charged with an offense and the lawyers representing them and allow the parties to appear at mandatory court dates less frequently?
In Galveston County, they actually let you come to court about once every 6 months so you can actually have time to work on your case. Montgomery County will give you a 3 month reset. Fort Bend and Brazoria also show the same courtesy. Harris County, however, will make a person come to court about 5 times in a 3 month period.
Why does Harris County do this?
One reason is there are a few judges that are hyper-concerned with the number of cases pending on their docket. There has become a competition between courts to see who can plead out the most cases and have the lowest number of pending cases on their docket. How do you encourage more people to give in and just plead guilty? Make them take off from school and work so many unnecessary times that they risk losing their job or getting kicked out of school. That way, the defendant comes in, throws their hands up and says to their lawyer, “Let’s just get this over with, I’ll plead guilty because I cannot take off any more time to come to court for these settings.”
You know why the court building is unable to handle the number of people there each day?
Because it wasn’t designed to have 15,000 misdemeanor defendants coming to court every 2 weeks. Longer resets would save money on human resources and reduce overcrowding in the mornings. It would also give lawyers time to work on their client’s cases and give the case a long enough reset date to actually matter.
Also, by spacing out the dockets for your on-bond defendants, there is more space to bring in those defendants who are still in custody and having their freedom actually deprived at the moment. These are the ones who need to be working more quickly towards a resolution of their cases.
I know that docket numbers are important to the judges, but have we really examined why? In most instances, a high docket isn't a reflection of poor management by a judge. A judge has to do their job regardless of whether there are 100 defendants on their docket or 1,000. If a case gets reset, it may be because a prosecutor doesn't have some "to do" done, or it could be that a defendant just doesn't want to work out their case.
That's not something to blame on the Judge of the court, is it?
Anyway, it's just an idea.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Any portions of this post that were written with poor spelling or grammar or that were in any way offensive to a judge were written by Tyler Flood. All the good stuff with immaculate spelling was written by Murray Newman).