NH is facing a
budget crisis which is reducing court days. We have fewer and fewer
judges and judge days due to budget cuts. Court personnel are retiring
and not being replaced. There are currently 3 judicial vacancies one
each in the Supreme, Superior and Circuit Courts. All of these costs
savings and personnel decisions mean justice is delayed more and more.
We now have a court calling center and there are constantly talks about
closing remote courts.
system is barely operating right now. One colorful Superior Court
Judge has said from the bench many times “justice delayed is justice
denied.” The delays for court dates are becoming common. I agree that
if even just a small fraction of people decided to try cases the system
would implode. Recently, I have noticed that court dates have been
set further and further out. It is not unusual for a court date to take
12 months or more to be reached. At some point the cases are so old
that they lose a sense of urgency for the people involved. Witnesses
will have problems remembering facts; victims will feel dis-empowered and
cheated; defendants question whether justice will ever arrive. As an
active criminal defense lawyer, I am concerned about where these delays
will lead. Our system of justice demands timely trials by our peers.
There are only so many tax dollars available, but as the number of
people incarcerated climbs so do the costs. Perhaps a less effective
system of churning out guilty people is the best for our state and
Susan Burton’s questions “What
would happen if we organized thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of
people charged with crimes to refuse to play the game, to refuse to plea
out? What if they all insisted on their Sixth Amendment right to trial?
Couldn’t we bring the whole system to a halt just like that?” would put
fuel on a crisis that would cause the system to break. I don’t know
what would remain after the break, but it would be radically different.
It is interesting to think what would happen if we all say “Ready for
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