State and Federal Court Systems and Workgroups
A courtroom workgroup comprises of court personnel who work together with the aim of facilitating effective prosecution. There are several parties constituting the courtroom workgroup. These include judicial officers, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys (Cole & Smith, 2010).The other minor teams in the group include police officers, witnesses, court clerks and media personnel. These teams fulfill several roles and functions of the court. As such, the jury issues warrants, grants or denies bails, presides over hearings and rules on motions. Similarly, prosecuting attorneys defend the government in criminal cases. Defense attorneys oversee the upholding of the rights of defendants. In this regard, they defend their clients during court proceedings. A courtroom workgroup ensures that various parties collaborate throughout criminal cases starting from the justice system to their conclusion.
In its day-to-day activities, the courtroom workgroup’s roles are interdependent with respect to the recurrent and ongoing interactions. With the recent legal reforms, courtroom workgroups aim at plummeting and averting criminal activities by helping to reintegrate offenders back into the local community. In the recent past, there have been rising incidents of shootouts in courtrooms (Cole & Smith, 2010). To curb this vice, I would recommend the provision of more security within court jurisdictions to prevent violent offenders from engaging in such acts. On several occasions, offenders have overpowered court personnel and used their weapons in shootouts. To prevent such occurrences, court personnel, especially law enforcers, should ensure that their proximity to offenders eliminates any chances of access to their weapons (Reichel, 2008).
In the United States, prosecutors constitute the most powerful officials in the criminal justice system. They are responsible for the daily decisions, control, direction and outcome of criminal cases. Therefore, they have a significant impact compared to other members of the criminal justice system (Reichel, 2008). Overtime, the function of the American prosecution system has shifted from that of a relatively minor player in the colonial justice system to that of the most powerful stakeholder in the modern justice system. Despite the alterations in the prosecution function, prosecutors’ roles have remained the same for over a century now (Reichel, 2008). In this regard, prosecutors have the mandate to represent the state’s interest in criminal cases, seek justice, hold offenders accountable for their actions and protect civilians from criminal activities. Currently, the prosecution functions have undergone expansion to include the protection of the rights of victims (Reichel, 2008).
Prosecutors have the discretion to decide which crimes warrant trial. Usually, law enforcement agencies investigate a crime and send a report to the prosecutor. Thereafter, the prosecutor decides if he or she will present criminal charges against the subject of the investigation. To achieve this objective, the prosecutor has to analyze the case and determine its legality (Reichel, 2008). In this regard, the case should not have any obvious flaws that might jeopardize its success. Thus, the case should not violate the defendants’ constitutional rights in any manner whatsoever. Afterwards, the prosecutor has to ensure that the evidence presented in the case is sufficient and dependable. In this regard, the prosecutor must ensure that the quality of the evidence will guarantee a successful conviction.
If the criteria for analyzing a case were more or less strict, prosecutors would try fewer criminals. As such, lawyers would require higher specialization to maintain their caseloads (Reichel, 2008). The failure in this regard would result in the processing of fewer cases.
The criminal justice funnels and backlog of cases significantly undermine the efficiency of the court system and courtroom workgroup. The delay in settling cases undermines the court’s purpose because delaying justice often has negative outcomes (Reichel, 2008). The increase in the funnels and backlog cases in courts imply that court personnel have to work under pressure to complete cases. In this regard, the efficiency of courts will be considerably undermined as this does not only affect the morale of courtroom workgroups, but also hinders their effectiveness leading to loss of enormous output. Similarly, because of the delayed justice facilitated by the funnels and backlog cases, the affected victims will not receive justice (Cole & Smith, 2010). In Townsville, over the last 2 years, the number of cases awaiting trial has increased from 179 to 205. Most of these cases have remained unattended to for more than 12 months. This has hindered the administration of justice as well as interfered with the evidence.
To eliminate the funnels and backlog of cases in our courts, proper and effective case-flow management systems should be established. Through this approach, the judiciary will adopt a new set of actions that ensure that courts monitor and control all the stages of cases up to the trial. To achieve the most appropriate case-flow management practice, US courts should consider setting case-disposition-time standards, ensure early court intervention, maximize dispositions, monitor caseloads and have effective post-disposition. Similarly, the judiciary should collaborate with other stakeholders to develop effective and sustainable solutions aimed at reducing the ever-increasing number of backlogs in civil, criminal and family cases (Cole & Smith, 2010). Likewise, the relevant ministry should assess both the quantitative and qualitative impacts resulting from the increased funnels and backlog cases in our courts (Cole & Smith, 2010). Through this approach, the benchmarks aimed at measuring improvements are realized.
Throughout the Cji interactive activities, we learned a lot concerning the past and modern criminal justice systems. Personally, I learnt that in the United States, modern court structures consist of multifaceted tapestry systems. In this regard, the studies affirm that no two state courts are structured in the same manner. The federal court system is a body whose activities are independent from the state courts. This allows states to retain a significant amount of internal authority while permitting the federal government the right to rule on circumstances that affect issues broader than any single state’s concerns. Correspondingly, Cji activities have demonstrated how various courts handle different cases. Usually, states have several courts such as civil, juvenile and family courts within their framework aimed at settling disputes that occur within their geographic jurisdictions. Federal courts deal with the violation of federal decrees and legal issues between states. For instance, in New York, courts comprise of civil, criminal and family courts. The New York criminal court handles cases pertaining to misdemeanors, traffic infractions and felony cases. On the other hand, the New York Supreme Court acts as a trial level court. In this regard, the court hears cases outside the jurisdiction of criminal courts (Cole & Smith, 2010). Therefore, regardless of their categorization as state or federal courts, trial courts determine whether one is guilty or innocent and administer corresponding sentences. On the other hand, appellate courts review the decisions after establishing the facts.
Cole, G. F., & Smith, C. E. (2010).The American system of criminal justice (12th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Reichel, P. L. (2008). Comparative criminal justice systems: a topical approach (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.