11/20/09 — Friday District Court sessions to resume

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Friday District Court sessions to resume

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 20, 2009 1:46 PM

Sometimes, you just cannot make do without a judge.

That is the reasoning behind a new District Court session that will begin taking place on the first and third Fridays of every month, starting in January, court officials say.

It replaces a 2-4 p.m. "reduction" session, now being held on Fridays, where defendants with "waivable" offenses -- those that can simply be paid off -- can discuss their options with prosecutors.

Many times, defendants were asking for services only a judge can provide, said Chief District Court Judge David Brantley and District Attorney Branny Vickory.

The biggest issue was requests for "prayers for judgment continued," in which a judge finds a defendant guilty, but does not enter a judgment for the offense. Also, the recipient of a prayer for judgment pays only court costs and not a fine.

"(Prayers for judgment continued) were the main things, having some folks come up here thinking they could get rid of their case ... and they couldn't do it when they got here," Vickory said.

Brantley said that Vickory had been asking him about the session since he became the chief District Court judge.

"It's a way to try to handle a caseload quickly, and maybe save some court time. We're just trying a different strategy to see if we can attack some heavy traffic volumes," Brantley said.

Vickory said he has been looking to redistribute District Court case loads for at least 11 years.

"Ever since I became (district attorney), I've been trying to think of ways to make more room for District Court," Vickory said.

The district attorney believes the new Friday court session, which will start at 9 a.m, will provide that room.

Through some shuffling of other resources, Vickory said he was able to introduce the new court session without adding any costs to the court system.

The worthless check program has seen reduced numbers through persistent enforcement, Vickory said, and now may fit into regular Thursday sessions, Vickory said.

A few court dates in Mount Olive may also be reduced to make room for the new Friday session, the district attorney said.

The idea of an extra District Court session is not new -- at least two nearby counties, Wake and Johnston, both have similar programs, Vickory and Brantley said.