Source:  Baltimore Sun sunspot

    Time to try full-time judge
     Central Booking: Verbal sparring is best resolved by seeing how well
     quick resolution of cases works.

    DO NOT be distracted by the histrionics of Baltimore Mayor
    Martin O'Malley and Chief District Judge Martha F. Rasin. The important out.

    Ms. Rasin says she's ready to post a judge at Central Booking
    five days a week. Mr. O'Malley wants one every day.

    Seven-day coverage, including holidays, makes the most sense.
    Arrests don't stop over weekends or on holidays.

    Without a judge at Central Booking to hear cases every day, the
    jail fills up with non-violent defendants who can't make bail.
    After the President's Day holiday weekend, for example, the
    judge had to conduct two and a half times the average number of
    bail reviews.

    In the end, though, the dispute over five- or seven-day
    scheduling is a secondary issue. The main issue is what the
    Central Booking judge should do.

    Ms. Rasin would limit the judge's mandate to bail review
    hearings and certain guilty pleas. She wants to prove her
    long-standing contention that there is not enough for a full-time
    judge to do. She abhors the idea that her judges might have to
    work on evenings, weekends or holidays.

    Mr. O'Malley, by contrast, wants the Central Booking judge to
    operate a regular District Court during an eight-hour shift. With
    a full docket, the judge would have more than enough to do.

    There's a simple way to end this tiff and see who's right. Since
    Ms. Rasin maintains her limited-docket court has not proven its
    usefulness, let's try Mr. O'Malley's concept for six months and
    see whether it works any better.

    The bail-bond industry and some attorneys oppose bringing a
    full-time judge to Central Booking. They fear their businesses
    would be adversely affected by early resolution of cases that
    now languish on the dockets for months. Like Chief Judge
    Rasin, those two groups are placing their self-interests above the
    public good.

    Over the years, repeated recommendations have urged placing a
    full-time judge at Central Booking to stop clogging the court
    system at the point of intake. Up to now, the various self-interest
    groups have managed to defeat these proposals. No wonder the
    problem remains unresolved.

    Originally published on Mar 1 2000