Monday, August 3, 2009

What causes delays in court?

This morning I visited Judge Gordon Graham's courtroom at the McHenry County (Ill.) Government Center. I was there to observe proceedings in two cases that were filed in April 2008 and then to go down the hall to Judge Weech's courtroom to observe a third case involving the same party. More about these cases in a separate article.

One of the things that is tricky is trying to be in two courtrooms at the same time. What you don't want, is not to be present when your case is called.

I suggested to the woman to go to one courtroom, check in and inform the bailiff that she had cases in a second courtroom. She did, and the bailiff told her to go to the second courtroom.

She checked in at the second courtroom. Because her last name is at the beginning of the alphabet, her case was called at 9:05AM, right after court started. Great! (Only it wasn't.)

Her attorney was nowhere to be found, and the judge told her to sit down and wait for her attorney. And wait she did.

At 9:25AM Judge Graham announced a recess and disappeared into the inner sanctum. There were 36 people in the courtroom.

At 10:00AM we all rose and Judge Graham was back in business.

At 10:20AM he called another recess and disappeared again. This time there were still 24 people in the courtroom.

About ten minutes later six lawyers shuffled from the courtroom through one of the back doors and out of sight. Over the next ten minutes they came back in, in groups.

At 10:44AM court re-convened.

At 10:47AM this woman's case was called. Her attorney, who is new on her case, wasn't prepared, and her cases were continued until August 17.

And her attorney told her that her case in the other courtroom was continued to August 17, so she didn't have to go there and waste more time.

The judge is King in his courtroom, but wouldn't it be nice if he explained how long he would be gone and maybe even what he would be doing, if he had to leave three dozen "customers" sitting in his courtroom for more than 30 minutes? You know? They have lives, too. When people take time off work to be in court, most likely they don't get paid for the hours not worked. Cooling your heels should not be part of the penalty for your particular misdeed.

And maybe attorneys' fees would come down a little, if so many defense attorneys didn't have to cool their heels unproductively.

Probably there was some legal matter that Judge Graham had to attend to. But why did it (or they) get 58 minutes out of the first two hours of court today?


Unknown said...

I think you should have stood up and demanded an answer! Judge Graham would have been happy to explain it to you!

Instead, you wait until you get on your blog to complain about it!

Maybe you should be mad at her attorney? after all, if he would have been on time, you would have been out of there in 10 minutes, right?

Anonymous said...

DA- better yet... stay out of f-n trouble so that you don't needed to be in court!!!
Gus- dont worry about the 24-36 people waiting in court... with you as Sheriff, the courtrooms will be overflowing with parking scofflaws, outdoor smokers, garage sale sign procrastinators, auto dealership villans, and the like.
LaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLa Jihad!!!!!

Another Lawyer said...

Judge Graham runs his courtroom very well. What you forgot to explain is that the Judge went and called everyone on the docket, Some "customers" (sic) were waiting for attorneys, and some asked to have their cases passed. The judge took a break, after calling all of the 9:00 cases. The next set of cases are set for 10:00. The judge returned and began to deal with those cases.

Courtrooms, much like emergency rooms take cases in an order as to most efficiently deal with the matters presented to them.

Although I understand your confusion, I can state from experience that I have not seen a courtroom that ran smoother.

Gus said...

Let's say that he did finish the 9:00AM call in 20 minutes. Wouldn't it have been courteous to announce that the 9:00AM call had been completed and that court would resume at 10:00AM. Then the "customers" could have left the courtroom, rather than sitting there not knowing whether he might return in five minutes.

Same with the 10:00AM call and finishing in 20 minutes. Only there were still people there.

If the "customer" is there and the lawyer isn't, shouldn't the court track down the lawyer and find out where he is? Yes, they bounce back and forth between courtrooms and cannot be in two places at the same time, but there has to be a better way than just telling the "customer" to sit there and wait.

Gus said...

It turns out that the Special Public Defender in this case didn't even know the case had been assigned to him.

See article on August 17, 2009.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Gus... they are called "Defendants"... NOT customers. Guilty until proven innocent... bedder get that in yer head b4 getting elected Sheriff.