Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Ky. Supreme Court
demands speedier trials

Cases must be reviewed once a year; burden put on judges, not prosecutors

By Dylan T. Lovan
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - The Kentucky Supreme Court has adopted a new rule to speed up state criminal courts by requiring judges to review inactive cases once a year.

The rule, shaped by an advisory panel of circuit court judges, gives criminal court judges the power to dismiss cases that have stalled for a year.

"It's intended to force lawyers to move the cases, and if they don't move, they get booted out," said Bill Cunningham, a circuit judge in western Kentucky who sat on the advisory panel headed by Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert.

The state Administrative Office of the Courts announced the new rule Tuesday. It takes effect Jan. 1.

Cunningham said the new standard mirrors speedy trial rules that already exist for civil cases. The new criminal rule places the burden on judges - not prosecutors - to move criminal cases swiftly through the system, he said.

"That's good, because if you think the prosecutor has the responsibility and the prosecutor thinks the judge has, it just languishes there," said Cunningham. "I think that was the most significant consequence of this rule, to define the responsibility for moving cases."

Under the rule, judges will send notice to attorneys involved in a stalled case. The notice will warn that the case faces dismissal in 30 days unless attorneys can show a good reason for the delay, such as prolonged scientific testing. Under the rule, a case will be dismissed without prejudice, which gives prosecutors the opportunity to reopen it.

"I think the rule is going to end up being pretty good," said Fayette County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson.

Larson said he and other prosecutors were concerned about the rule, because initially it didn't account for fugitives from justice whose cases stalled while they were on the run. The final version includes a clause that keeps those cases on the court docket.

Most judges do a good job of keeping criminal cases moving, said Circuit Judge James Shake, chief regional judge in Jefferson County. Shake served on the state Supreme Court's advisory panel.

"I hope, and I think everyone's hope, is that this rule won't need to even be used," said Shake. "The reason being that everyone's taking closer steps to try and keep their cases on an active progression."

Shake said a series of stories on justice delays by the Courier-Journal of Louisville helped prompt the change.

The newspaper's examination began in Bullitt County, but expanded to included the entire state.

The newspaper reported that at least 200 people charged with felonies such as rape, drug dealing and murder had escaped prosecution in Bullitt County.

Some of the cases dated back to the early 1980s. The series was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize this year.

The newspaper's executive editor, Bennie L. Ivory, said the newspaper was "thrilled" with the Supreme Court's action.

"All citizens of Kentucky will benefit from this," Ivory said.

Warren Co. defends lockdown decision
Teen crash fatality drunk
Bus budget has $1 base fare
Ky. law allows anyone to bail out teens
Reallocated flu vaccine on the way to Ohio, Ky.
Lawsuit cap debate breaks into TV ads
Bogart's bouncer pleads not guilty
Reptile rescuer catches criticism
City Council's Pepper crime victim yet again
Warren Co. judge's alleged mistress fired
Crash-death suspect in court

At last, 12th Street upgrade
Council tables Sunday liquor sales revision
Florence woman, 89, savors morning swim
Racist fliers show up in Taylor Mill
Discussion over fate of park to resume before school board
State insurance plan signups go smoothly
Ky. Supreme Court demands speedier trials
Kentucky Veteran's Day events

'Super-pill' helps people keep weight off, quit smoking
Ohio Veterans Day events
Public safety briefs
News briefs

'Karate Kid' antagonist says: OK to show mercy
Grant excites Xavier, Evanston
Xavier ROTC team earns honors

Housing policies proposed
Growth limits considered
Norwood takes couple's 35-year home
Mariemont might halve garbage collection

'Woody' Wodrich, 89, was gunner on Flying Fortress
Rosella Porterfield, 85, helped integrate schools
Kentucky obituaries

Korte: Republicans lining up for council seat
Good Things Happening: Pupils assemble quilt for patient
Good Things Happening: Saluting our soldiers