Cumberland County Unified Criminal Docket — One Year Later

Cumberland County Unified Criminal Docket – One Year Later

Cumberland County at the beginning of 2009 became the first county in the State to utilize the Unified Criminal Docket (UCD).  The UCD ends the District Court and Superior Court distinction creating a single unified criminal docket.  This has saved the clerk’s office and judiciary some much need time behind the scenes.   From a taxpayers standpoint it appears to be working.  I do not have statics to support this conclusion.  However, if you are saving time than I think it is fair to conclude that you can get more done with less people.

Has the UCD worked for defendants?  I believe so.  There have been two major positive impacts for my clients.  Under the old superior/district court process a Defendant had to request in writing within 21 days of their arraignment a jury trial and the failure to do so was considered a waiver of the very important right to a jury trial.  There were many occasions were my representation of individuals would start after the 21 days had ran.  Many clients were waiving their right to a jury trial without the benefit of counsel to assist them.  This would typically increase the time and cost spent on a case.  As defense counsel I would have to file a motion to extend time to file a jury trial request and file the actual jury trial request.  If the motion to extend time was not granted without a hearing then time and money would have to be spent on a hearing.   Under the UCD you need to opt out of a jury trial.  A Defendant can opt out of a jury trial at the very last moment.  No longer are my clients waiving their right to a jury trial unknowingly and without the benefit of counsel.

The other positive impact the UCD has had on my clients is that there is a shorter delay between being charged and resolving the case.  It takes approximately four months between the time my client makes their first appearance in court and jury selection.  This means my clients are on bail and subjected to conditions of release impinging upon their liberty interest for a short period of time.  For those clients who are unable to post bail it means a shorter wait in jail before their case is tried.  Under the old superior/district court process it would typically take much longer with some clients waiting a year or more between the first court appearance and jury selection.

Much more, positive and negative, can be said about the UCD.  However, I will leave that for another post

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