Here is the emergency docket for tomorrow, May 14th.
Once again, there are 21 in-custody defendants who will be present at a court hearing tomorrow, systemwide, out of more than 2600 inmates currently in the Broward County Jail awaiting hearings.
Remarkably, on Friday, there is no docket at all.
Here’s what else there isn’t since the pandemic started:
VFO Bond Hearings; Arthur Hearings, and Open Pleas.*
We spoke to one attorney today who has been trying to get an Arthur Hearing armed with an affidavit from an alleged victim who wants the defendant out, which according to the lawyer also shows the case is overcharged and should have been bondable all along. The attorney can’t get a hearing date, and is now considering a Writ to the court of appeals.
Are the current procedures in place frustrating? Yes. Dangerous and grossly wasteful of time and taxpayer money? Of course. But whatever we’re experiencing on the outside is nothing in comparison to the suffering, both emotional and physical, going on in the jails and with inmates’ loved ones.
In neighboring Miami-Dade County, as one might expect, we’re told there are at least three courtrooms going daily in the morning and afternoon. First appearances twice daily, misdemeanor dockets, and felony emergency dockets, including Arthur Hearings, VFO/Danger Hearings, Pleas, arraignments, and other emergencies. Witnesses, including probation officers, appear remotely just like the attorneys, and there’s even a break-out room for lawyers to have real-time, confidential electronic communications with clients mid-hearing, if the need arises. Judges have the option of waiting to resume a hearing while lawyers and clients privately confer, or to handle other matters before recalling the case. Rumor has it another ZOOM courtroom is going operational in Miami soon as well.
Broward County, after garnering good reviews at the outset for a quick response during the early days of the pandemic, is once again living up to its reputation as badly managed and irresponsible. And it’s a shame, as we know of comments by many Broward judges who are itching to move cases, and are willing to try alternatives to broaden the systems currently in place. Whether the problems are truly technological or budgetary remains to be seen, but given Supreme Court directives and the Constitutional implications, should be thoroughly investigated after the pandemic is over. But whatever the case may be, the fact that Jack Tuter, chief judge of Broward County, is now in charge of a circuit where even the lone fully electronic courtroom is now sometimes sitting idle a full 19 days before the June 1st proposed reopening, is absolutely inexcusable. Broward deserves a leader that can guide the stakeholders to places neighboring jurisdictions have been at for weeks or months, and if Tuter lacks the focus or creativity to get it done, should immediately step down for another judge willing to take the helm.
*There’s a joke in the 17th Circuit, where because of an anachronistic and risk-averse State Attorney, open pleas are the lifeblood of a gridlocked system.
It goes like this:
Q. How do you confuse a Broward judge?
A. Tell her you have a negotiated plea …
Also from Miami-Dade: