Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tell me why

Mayor Tony Mack wants to appoint three more, full-time municipal judges.

Mayor Mack wants to open up auxiliary court rooms in the abandoned East and West Police District Stations.

Tell me why.

Here you can find the Trenton Municipal Court statistics from July 2008 through March of this year. These stats were obtained from the state judiciary website and has data going all the way back to July 2004, if you want to check for yourself.

When you look at the stats you will want to look at some key headings: Filings, Clearance Percent, Backlog and Active Pending.

Filings in FY 2009 were down 2% from FY2008.
Filings in FY 2010 were down 15% from FY2009.
Filings in FY2011were down 5% from FY2010
Filings for the first three quarters of FY2012 ARE DOWN 32% over the same period the year before!

Clearance percentage in FY2009 was 95%. That means less cases were cleared than were opened.
In the next two years, the clearance rate was 102% and 109% respectively. For the first nine months of this fiscal year, the clearance rate is 113%. 

More cases were cleared than opened. This reduces the backlog. In FY2009, the backlog was up 11% from the previous year.  In FY2010, the backlog dropped by 3%. There was an 11% reduction in the backlog in for FY2011. So far in FY2012, the backlog has dropped 27%!

The bottom line figure is the Active Pending number. While it went up 12% from FY2008 to FY2009, it has been steadily dropping since.

The municipal court has been operating with pretty good efficiency with the two full-time judges. Hiring more would just add expenses we don't need.

Tell me why.

The case load is being handled effectively in the existing facility. While I hate that the "never should have been built" East and West police buildings are sitting virtually idle, there is no apparent need to spend money to reconfigure them for additional court space.

Besides needing permission from Mercer County Assignment Judge Mary Jacobson to add the additional judges, Trenton would need Administrative Office of the Courts approval to create courtrooms in the police sub-stations.

According to knowledgeable sources, the AOC must approve the location, the courtroom itself, security issues, public health/access issues and must be willing to provide the court recording and computer equipment.

That application process could take a year. If permission is granted for the new judges, where will they work when only have two court rooms available?

If the judges are approved and can't work they can't be laid off. By statute the term is a mandatory three years. Remember the controversy surrounding Mack's first judicial appointee, Renee Lamarre Sumners and how she had to finally resign?

Right now Trenton is approved for 3 full-time and one part-time judge but we never had that many. We haven't had the need or the space. With what the statistics above show, we don't need them now. If we add judges and court rooms, will we be hiring more court staff as well?

And let's remember the simple fact that the police are not issuing as many summons, thus lessening the case filings.  Less filings, less volume in the courts.

Has any of this been thought out by the Mack administration?

Tell me why.


Unknown said...

Nicely argued, and a pretty sound analysis. If the caseload doesn't require additional judges, we don't need to spend more money we don't have on salaries nor on construction costs at the police stations.

It is a shame, though, that the Mack Administration has three appointees hanging in the wind, while they haven't done their homework or made their case. That is SO UNLIKE them!! ;-D

Old Mill Hill said...

Thank you. It doesn't take a whole lot to look at this picture and see that there is no reason for the additional expense.

As you so rightly point out, another example of no thought, no real plan coming from the Mack administration.

We only have to hope that the assingment judge does her homework and realizes there is no need.

Anonymous said...

Another "cost" is security. I police officer would be needed during the sessions.

Lamberton Lilly said...

Why? Because no one in the current administration of the Honorable Mayor Mack can count to twenty without taking off their shoes. That's why! Lamberton Lilly

Dan Dodson said...

Great job. I wish more people would take the time to think. What about the other 85,000 people in Trenton. Have you questioned your government lately?

Old Mill Hill said...

Thanks, Dan. we do, too.

Rhetoric is all well and good in its place. Making up things as one goes along, not so much.

guyonthecanal said...

Nice analysis. I did find one comment rather disturbing. Somehow I don't suspect that there is a sudden outbreak of civic responsibility among Trenton's criminal element. Somehow I think I'd rather hear that the courts are backlogged with all the cases criminal and ordinance violations that the TPD are sending their way.

Old Mill Hill said...

Point taken but it just isn't going to happen. When you only have a handful of officers covering the entire city (sometimes less than that) violations of city ordinances are not going to be tended to as diligently.

Some thefts aren't even reported because there isn't enough manpower to take a thorough report and investigate fully.