A speedy trial is a basic right, but the state’s criminal courts are having a hard time meeting that standard. The judicial system has a backlog of tens of thousands of cases. And an initiative designed to deal with that backlog has been ruled unconstitutional.
Of course, both problems could go away if the courts were better funded — something the Legislature has a responsibility to provide.
Until that day arrives, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has a plan that the S.C. Supreme Court should consider.
Even while stretching her limited budget, Ms. Wilson has found ways to make the scheduling and management of court cases more efficient.
For example, she coordinates with public defender Ashley Pennington on a priority docket for important cases. The judges have the final word.
The state Supreme Court, however, has ruled that the system violates the separation of powers doctrine by usurping the court’s authority on judicial matters.
The court has assigned scheduling responsibilities to the county Clerk of Court’s office. But it delayed implementation because of complaints raised statewide, and it is restudying the question.
Ms. Wilson’s recommendation to the Supreme Court is that her office be allowed to continue scheduling, but with judges being more involved.
To put the process entirely in the hands of judges would be problematic because they are in short supply and rotate around the state. Giving them the additional duty of handling the docket would likely back things up even more.
Ms. Wilson’s proposal deserves every consideration by the high court. It would provide a practical compromise to ensure that pending cases can be dealt with in a timely manner.
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