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Monitoring the Length of Criminal Trials: A Judicial Perspective on the Problem of Controlling the Length of Criminal Trials (or, A Judge Is Not a Potted Plant Either!)

NCJ Number
State Court Journal Volume: 12 Issue: 1 Dated: (Winter 1988) Pages: 18-19
R M Silver
Date Published
2 pages
Judges should reexamine their roles in the trial process, abandon old and inefficient habits, and search for new techniques for conducting trials fairly and efficiently, according to a superior court judge in Monterey County, California, who is responding to a 2-year study entitled 'On Trial: The Length of Civil and Criminal Trials,' carried out by the National Center for State Courts.
The judge observes that the study raises the question of the proper role of the court in managing the trial process -- should they act only as umpires, or should they assume the responsibility for ensuring that trial time is used effectively and efficiently? He argues that effective judicial leadership can save time in the trial process without sacrificing fairness and points out that trial court judges are in the best position to balance competing interests fairly, ensure that the attorneys for all parties are prepared to move ahead with the trial, and control progression of the trial. A brief list of actions that can be taken by judges to manage trial time efficiently and effectively is provided. Among his suggestions are the following: (1) obtain information and establish trial procedures at a pretrial conference; (2) coordinate with other court personnel; and (3) maintain trial continuity. The author includes specific recommendations for the timely management of various aspects of the trial.


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