|July 18, 2012|
For anyone who has ever been charged with a North Carolina Crime and has had to come to court, chances are they are aware of how frustrating a day that is. As a Raleigh Criminal Lawyer and Durham Criminal Lawyer, I spend countless hours sitting in court. Most often this time is spent waiting for my turn to handle by clients issues while seated on a terribly uncomfortable bench. In many instances of sitting there waiting my turn, as well as my time as a Prosecutor, I have seen and/or overheard comments from the general public about how long it takes for court to proceed. These people are normally impatient and can't understand why their case hasn't been handled yet. This is true whether I was in North Carolina DWI Court, North Carolina District Court or North Carolina Superior Court. If these same people would ever take time to observe the conduct of the many North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney who are also there waiting with the general public, chances are they would notice a calm demeanor on these attorney's faces. Even though these attorneys make their living in the courtroom, you will rarely see them get impatient or frustrated with the Prosecutor, Clerk of Court, or the Judge. And though the general public may only have to come to court a couple of times, these attorneys are in court almost daily. So, to help explain why these attorneys do not seem to be bothered by the situation occurring in court, this article will try and explain what is taking place on any given court date, and why it may appear less is happening then what really is taking place.
First, in most courtrooms, especially in district court where most people have their first encounter with the justice system, there is only one Prosecutor assigned to handle that entire court's docket. If you ask why it is there aren't more Prosecutors there to help out with the workload, you only have to think back to the last time the Government was proposing raising taxes and how vehemently you opposed that idea. The District Attorney's Office operates like most any other Government Entity, underfunded and under staffed. In fact, Starting District Attorneys make about the same as most entry level jobs for fresh undergraduate degree holders.
Second, regardless of what you think you are observing, I promise a lot is getting done, even if cases aren't moving as fast as you think they should. Remember, though this may be your first time coming to court, the Court personnel have been doing this for years and have found a way to operate as efficiently as possible. You know this is true because they can leave the courtroom as soon as they are done with all of these cases for that day, so they want to be done just as soon as you do. So, what is happening up front when it appears not much is going on? Well, a good amount of time is speaking with various defense attorneys and defendants in determining how to handle their case. If you see the District Attorney sitting at a table looking over paperwork, and the occasional Defense Attorney speaks with him/her, they are handling that case. In some instances, this means that the Judge and Clerk of Court may not have much to do, but since the District Attorney has to handle each case before it proceeds before the Judge and finally into the hands of the Clerk of Court, then that District Attorney is doing their best to facilitate that process as best they can. The reality is, the District Attorney carries a heavy burden in trying to get through all of those cases. Defense Attorneys know this, from many years of experience in dealing with the District Attorney, and therefore you don't seem them rushing and complaining that things are moving along faster.
Lastly to make mention is, if your case is not handled immediately, it's not personnel. Each District Attorney knows how they like to proceed with their calender, whether that is to get all of the Pro Se Defendants done first, or handle all of the Attorneys cases first, or a mixed bag. Additionally, they have to get through all First Appearances and chances are some Jail Cases. Someone in all of this mess obviously has to be last, and that could just as likely be you as the person sitting next to you.
So, next time you find yourself in court, try to think about all that the court personnel are trying to complete that day and be as patient as you can as they will get through as fast as they can.
Disclaimer - Information and advice offered in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is specific to North Carolina law. The viewing, receipt and/or exchange of information from this article does not constitute an Attorney-Client Relationship. For assistance regarding your particular legal question speak with an Attorney practicing in the field from which your questions derives.