Viewpoint: Court consolidation to downtown Phoenix benefits everybody

[Source: Barbara Rodriguez Mundell, Maricopa County Superior Court presiding judge, Special for the Republic] — In our ongoing effort to improve safety and efficiency, Maricopa County Superior Court is moving five criminal-trial judges from the Southeast Regional Court Center in Mesa to downtown Phoenix.  The first of the five criminal-trial judges will move to the downtown court complex in July.   Plans are under way to relocate the four remaining Southeast criminal divisions this winter, most likely in December.

Story.jpgMaricopa County’s master space plan includes a goal to centralize criminal trials near the county jail.  Voters have twice endorsed downtown criminal-court consolidation in 1998 and again in 2002.  One of the authorized uses of the voter-approved jail excise tax, as set out in the Arizona Revised Statutes and the election publicity pamphlets, is “consolidating criminal divisions of the Superior Court in the county to a common location.”

The tough economic times have forced the court to take a hard look at ways to maximize our limited resources to continue to deliver jury trials in a timely manner.  Our budget and staff continue to shrink, while caseloads continue to grow.  Centralizing criminal trials will make more efficient use of staff to cover court duties without having to pay for outside contractor services.

This move will also benefit victims, police officers, witnesses and jurors.  If numerous trials are ready to go on the same day, we will have more backup criminal judges to handle overflow cases on the day scheduled for trial.  Witnesses and potential jurors will no longer be inconvenienced by having to wait until another date for trial or make wasted trips to the courthouse.  These measures are not only a better way of doing business: They will also save tax dollars.  [Note: To read the full op-ed piece, click here.]

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