Working (for) the system

Published 5:15 pm Saturday, December 28, 2013

If you ever have the chance to attend Beaufort County’s Superior Court, you’ll see a wide array of people there: attorneys, employees with the clerk’s office and probation office, defendants, people called in for hearings, for jury duty, or are there to support family and friends.

The judges move through cases as quickly as possible, which can sometimes be difficult because all the pieces need to be in place for each case. And there are many pieces involved. The defendant, his or her defense attorney, a representative from the district attorney’s office, perhaps witnesses, as well as the reams of paperwork attached to each case all must be prepared and present in order to bring cases to resolution.

There has been complaint by some elected officials that the ongoing overcrowding problems at the Beaufort County jail are the result of laziness on the part of judicial officials, specifically, the district attorney’s office. Those complaints, however, could be just as easily portrayed as lazy, as well. It’s simple to point the finger at one office and place blame entirely, rather than look at the larger picture that is our judicial system.

As with every other entity, a straggling economy has required budget cuts across the board. Whether one is talking government or business, employees are being tasked with more as the number of employees shrink. This is the case with the 2nd Judicial District: in the five county area covered, District 2 has lost several employees over the past year, eroding its support system and increasing caseload for those remaining.

If one is looking for speedy resolutions, those budget cuts were not the way to go. But what is the way to go is, of their volition, key members of the 2nd Judicial District have been working together since 2009, meeting once a quarter, to solve the issues that bog down court sessions. They work on ways to communicate better so all the pieces needed to resolve cases come together at the right time. They’ve found ways to speed up the process, which has increased efficiency in the system.

These actions are not indicative of laziness. They are the actions of those intent on creating a better, faster, way of dealing with an overburdened system.

Complain, if one must. But make sure those complaints are aimed at the right culprit — and not just the easiest one.