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Sometimes we feel too busy to take a step back to examine how we could make improvements and save time.

It's a Catch-22 — almost like being too busy to work on being less busy.

Fortunately, the Cole County courts have taken the time to find efficiencies that will make the court system better for them and for the people they serve.

In addition to adding another judge, the courts have consolidated all cases a person faces with the same judge.

Presiding Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem said, while the system only has been in use for a few months, the system is starting to work more efficiently.

"We found, thanks to information from our pre-trial release program, that most people miss court because of confusion with multiple court dates in multiple courts," Beetem said in a recent News Tribune story. "It's also inefficient for defendants and their lawyers to appear in different courts and at different times. The vast majority of misdemeanor charges, for people with felony charges as well, get resolved when a plea is made and accepted in a felony case."

The judges also implemented a rule that enabled misdemeanors to follow felonies. Beetem said having a person appear repeatedly on a misdemeanor charge, which wouldn't be resolved until a felony charge was resolved, created more work for everyone.

The results of the changes have reduced the caseload in the two associate circuit courts and increased the caseload in the three circuit courts.

While that increases the workload for the circuit division, it's still manageable, Beetem said.

He said the courts want to see 90 percent of cases resolved in 180 days, and he thinks they're on the right track.

The efforts by Beetem and the other judges will not only help them perform their work, but they will help assure defendants of their constitutional right to a speedy trial.

News Tribune

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