Most lawyers and litigants show respect for the court’s time by their punctual arrival. It is unfortunate that the respect for a court’s time is too often unrequited. There is a diseased culture of arrogance in one important aspect of the region judicial system. The important aspect is scheduling. The nature of the arrogance is the implicit notion that a court’s time is immensely more important than the time of everyone else. The arrogance may manifest itself in scheduling the arrival of one hundred or more good men and women at the same time for a court session that will last for hours.
So what’s the problem? One problem is that there are too many cases. The CLB may address that problem another day. The second problem is the lack of basic decency inherent in scheduling a horde of people for an appearance at the same time. If I am no. 120 on a court call, and if my case will not be heard in the first two hours, then why do I have to appear at 9:00 a.m.? The answer is in two parts: (a) it may be more efficient or convenient for the court to register all the horde by 9:00 a.m.; and (b) the court doesn’t give a damn about the time or the human dignity of no. 120 on the call.
We lawyers expect our cases to be heard first so that we can leave early before the air in the room turns unbreathable. But sometimes the lawyers (or some of us) are treated as boorishly as the unwashed masses. I recently attended a court call (in a court south of 93rd Avenue) for status hearings and pretrial hearings. Nearly all the cases scheduled had one or two lawyers. All 44 cases were scheduled for the same 1:30 p.m. time. How many cases were heard at 1:30? None were heard because the court convened late (another aspect of the problem). Wouldn’t it have made sense to schedule half the cases for a later hour?
City Courts tend to be perennial offenders in the time-wasting business. These courts may have an overload of cases. Still, a busy, productive court needn’t commit the wanton waste of time of the people appearing there. One concrete example of the transgression of time-wasting can be found on the 4:00 p.m. court call of August 8, 2017 in the Hammond City Court (slated for dissolution on 12/31/2018). There are more than 180 cases, and all are set for 4:00 p.m. I expect that court personnel would explain how much more efficient it is to gather all the defendants at once to hear their videotaped advisements. But at what cost is this efficiency? It would be better to play the judicial advisements each hour to a smaller crowd of newly arrived defendants, though that would likely require the judge and court staff to stay later than is their custom. Remember that judges and bailiffs are public employees who are paid to serve. There is no intent here to pick on Hammond City Court Judge Amy Jorgensen who inherited a broken system. But I say to her and to other judges, magistrates, and referees that it is never too late to begin doing the right thing.
The biggest time-wasting offender is and always has been the Lake Juvenile Court. There is a small but certain loss of human dignity each time a court needlessly and inordinately wastes the time of any citizen. It is the epitome of arrogance for a court to achieve efficiency for itself at the cost of wasting the time of so many others. Let me hear from you lawyers and litigants about your time wasted in court and about what remedy should be imposed. Give a shout out to those judges and courts that show regard for the time of lawyers and litigants.