On Monday, the judges of the 22nd Judicial Circuit will consider adding a gun docket. I have spoken and written about it - to you and to them - several times before.
This is a Q&A that includes the final objections some judges have raised - and my answers.
The gun docket idea is not proven, so let's not try it.
There's nothing experimental and unproven about the proposed gun docket. To the contrary, the gun docket is restricted to proven judicial strategies for doing justice and reducing risks of re-offending. Judges exercise the full measure of judicial discretion. They have no less broad discretion (a) to punish those who deserve punishment, (b) to confine those who pose a special risk of re-offending pretrial, and (c) to provide supervision and second changes for those who deserve a second chance or pose lesser risks of re-offending. The gun docket strengthens these time-tested judicial interventions. It does so by providing more resources and timely information to the two judges assigned to administer the docket.
The regular criminal docket already is slow and the gun docket will slow it even further and cause even a greater backlog by diverting resources from the main criminal docket?
A gun docket wouldn't add cases to the general docket. Every case moved to the gun docket means one fewer case on the general docket, with the two judges assigned to the docket ultimately handling as many as 15 percent of the entire docket's pending cases. The gun docket would not divert resources of any kind from the general docket. To the contrary, it will attract new resources for dedicated prosecutor staffing, extra parole and probation resources and private philanthropy.
That's not to say the 22nd Judicial Circuit doesn't have criminal docket issues. But the Circuit knows how to eliminate a backlog: through sustained hard work with every judge trying cases. That's how the Circuit dug out of heavy backlog a few years ago - when the court faced more drastic intervention by the Missouri Supreme Court because delays were so long.
Focusing on a big chuck of that docket in the form of the cases sent to the gun docket actually will help quicken the metabolism of the entire system, not the other way around.
The court should not bend to outside pressure to do its job differently.
The judges will be voting on a proposal being advanced by one of its own members, Judge Jack Garvey. The proposal has broad support within the 22nd Judicial Circuit's ranks. The proposal is modeled on the most promising practices of specialty gun courts attempted in courts from other states. It is the product of discussions begun by the 22nd Judicial Circuit - convened by Judge Garvey and continued by Judge Heagney when they were sitting as the Criminal Assignment Judges in Division 16.