A variety of functions are performed by the courts. Any individual that has a grievance or an issue should be necessarily granted access to the justice system through the courts and this access should not be dependent on gender, race, the paying ability or religion. The courts serve the central purpose of providing rulings in cases to achieve justice. However, the implementation of alternative or specialty courts may have an effect on the functions of the courts. In addition, the restructuring or the consolidation may also impact the laws of the rights of victims.
Alternative and Specialty Courts
Alternative and specialty courts have many functions and names. They are primarily known as problem-solving courts. Problem-solving courts are also called drug courts, which are courts that tend to specialize in certain categories such as drugs and alcohol. The drug courts provide justice by using its authority in the reduction of crime via altering the behavior of substance abuse of the defendant. It serves as a possible alternative to imprisonment for a long time or may even be used to drop the charges entirely.
History of Problem-Solving Courts
The origin of the problem-solving courts can be dated back to 1989 in Florida. These types of alternative courts have been expanded significantly throughout the nation and have been known to handle other matters such as mental health, gun crimes, and even domestic violence. In 1994, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals was established by 12 drug courts. By 2012, every state and U.S. territory had a drug court, which amounted to 2,734 drug courts nationwide.
Impact of Drug Courts
Drugs are a huge problem nationwide, and it does not appear that the problem is going away. At least 75 percent of criminal court cases are linked to substance abuse or the product of substance abuse. One issue with drug courts is the level of supervision the courts, judges, probation officers, and other resources set forth have in any particular drug court case. Due to drug courts, the involvement of criminal justice with those who have substance abuse issues is greater. Offenders are subject to more routine drug tests, appointments, and other guidelines set forth by the courts.
Availability of Drug Courts
Drug courts have been successful at County level to help reduce drug abuse, as well as improving employment and family functioning. At least one drug court is present in every New York County. This study showed that the court system estimated a savings of $254 million from costs associated with incarceration, by the enrollment of 18,000 drug offenders into the Drug Court for treatment. Not every jurisdiction has the resources or funding to implement a Drug Court. Some courts feel those who commit alcohol, or drug-related crimes can be punished out of the alcohol or drug dependency. However, this may not always be the case. Anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of offenders charged with alcohol, or drug-related crimes, commit a new crime upon release from prison which leads them back into the judicial process. Also, as much as 85 to 95 percent will relapse rather quickly after their release.
Court Consolidation and Restructuring Impact on Victim Rights Laws
The term “court consolidation” refers to the restructuring of the court system that results in the personnel of the court blending into a single circuit court. There are potential issues, especially with costs as those Municipal Court judges salaries will have to be adjusted to be at least comparable with those Superior Court judges’. With the court consolidation, this could bring up legislation issues with getting a bill passed to approve such consolidation of the courts. However, this could ease difficulties that some families and children face in family-related litigation.
In regards to victim rights laws, court consolidation shouldn’t have much effect as victims will have the same rights regardless of the court proceeding. The Crime Victims’ Rights Act gives victims of crimes many rights to include to be protected from the accused, in terms of a timely court proceeding notice, defendant release and the right to be heard in a court. There are many more rights associated with this act, but the same rights will be provided to victims no matter the court or jurisdiction of the offense.
Changes within the Courts
Changes in the courts could be drastic if there is a consolidation of the courts between two or more municipalities. This consolidation would broaden the pool of judges, which could help the smaller municipalities. At the same time, it could increase the caseload or docket for the courts on any particular day. The implementation of drug courts or other alternative courts could vastly change many courts as well. As a result, there needs to be more diverse training for all involved in the courts, as well as additional hours and manpower, to conduct the frequent drug testing, meetings, and other programs the offender has to adhere to. Drug courts are handled through specialized dockets on a particular day of the month which calls for more involvement of other agencies such as social services, probation, and parole or other program administrators to appropriately meet the needs of the drug courts and those to be enrolled. These changes could happen on the local and state level for drug courts.
In 2015, Federal courts received a change to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This change in the federal court, also known as the “Duke Rules Package”, and was developed at a meeting held at Duke University. Mostly these changes are set to speed up the process of litigations in hopes to reduce any delays at the beginning. These changes will also cut costs which will allow those pushing for discovery to only be allowed discovery in proportion to the case needs at hand. Therefore, changes in courts usually benefit a majority, if not all the parties. The length of the court process can be long, but by speeding up this process, it could potentially cut delays in future court or litigation proceedings.
As the courts serve the primary purpose of providing justice to the involved parties, the issues in the court system need to be mitigated. With the rise in issues, like the alternative or specialty courts implementation or other changes occurring at various levels of the court, the main goal of the court system, i.e., the pursuit of justice is unaltered. However, all the parties that are involved in the cases, the victims and also involving the offender, as she too has certain rights, are influenced by change. The phrase, the pursuit of justice, is applicable to all, even the individual accused of a crime.