Starting on September 2 , 2014 , the domestic violence docket in Nashville General Sessions Courts are undergoing some drastic changes. Mayor Dean issued a press release on some of the changes in August. Last night , I attended a meeting on the changes . Unfortunately , there is not a written protocol of the new process only some colored graph that will make your head spin. As I understand it , a person who is arrested for a domestic violence charge that makes bond will have a court date within days of their release. It was explained to me this is an appearance date to see if you have a lawyer. The case will be reset with the goal to have a court date within 30 days from arrest.
Here are some of my issues ;
- There is not enough time for an accused citizen to research , interview , and hire a lawyer in that time frame.
- Once the lawyer gets hired , there is not that much time to prepare for a preliminary hearing or trial.
- The criminal justice system seems to be unfair to the citizen in having his or her day in court. It seems to me to be a rush to judgment.
Since , I am venting here are some other observations ;
- The powers that be who set these wheels in motion had little input from the private criminal defense bar. In the future , I would hope the General Sessions Judges would include more folks at the table than the Mayor’s office , the Public Defender , and the District Attorney.
- I am all in favor of having a place for the assistant district attorney generals to meet and interview witnesses , however the advocacy room might be a place to just park the witnesses. I know in past cases that I introduce myself to the complaining witness and they tell me what happened from their point of view.
I may be chicken little and I hope that I am . People don’t like change but if it comes at diminishing the rights of the citizen accused of a crime with limited time to defend themselves I am against the new changes.
I will be in court on Monday and look forward to reporting on my experiences.