What Are Specialty Courts?

People constantly complain about the long delays in court proceedings—and it’s true.  There are many reasons why this happens.  But one of specialty courtsthe biggest problems is there are too many cases and too few resources for people coming through the courts.  What can we do?

In the largest, busiest counties there has been a break-through toward handling this crush of cases but still providing justice for all involved.  They’re called Specialty Courts.  For years, special types of cases like mental health, and probate have been handled in specialty courts.  Recently, in my county, two specialty courts have been established:  Drug Court and Driving While Intoxicated Court.  There are three reasons why this development is beneficial for everyone.

1.  Efficiency.  In Drug Court, for instance, the only cases heard are drug possession cases.  Everything is set up for these types of cases so the proceedings can move quickly.  Since each case is similar to others, the volume of cases heard is much greater.  The judges and lawyers working in these courts become experts in this area of the law and can make decisions quicker.

2.  Resources.  Instead of requiring the defendants to go to several resources located in different areas, all resources are in the courtroom.  It’s a lot like “one-stop” shopping.  It’s so much easier for the defendants so their cooperation and success are much higher.

3.  Justice.  The main purpose of these courts is not necessarily punishment.  Instead, it’s rehabilitation.  Here’s an example from the DWI Court.  Although there are consequences for illegal and dangerous behavior, the idea is if the defendant an be drug/alcohol free, they won’t re-offend—which eliminates yet another case from clogging-up the system.  For obvious reasons, this is good for everyone.  The specialty courts promise the offender a clean record—if they take care of their chemical issues and don’t re-offend.

There were critics, initially, of these specialty courts, but their record of success has been overwhelming.  It’s worked to speed up the court system while still providing justice to everyone.

About Colin Nelson

Colin T. Nelson worked for 40 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. He tried everything from speeding tickets to first degree murder. His writing about the courtroom and the legal system give the reader a "back door" view of what goes on, what's funny, and what's a good story. He has also traveled extensively and includes those locations in his mysteries. Some are set in Southeast Asia, Ecuador,Peru, and South Africa. Readers get a suspenseful tale while learning about new places on the planet. Colin is married, has two adult children, and plays the saxophone in various bands.

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