The new chief judge of D.C. Superior Court, moving to share his authority over the operations of the court with his fellow judges, announced yesterday that he had appointed a trial judge to head each of the five major divisions of the court.
Chief Judge H. Carl Moultrie I, in a brief statement, said that the five judges would be expected to assist him in day-to-day operation of the city's complex and overburdened court system.
Three of the five judges appointed by Moultrie competed with him two months ago for the job of chief judge after the appointment of Harold H. Greene to a seat on the U.S. District Court here. Greene had been chief judge of Superior Court for about 12 years.
Those three judges are James A. Belson, Joyce Hens Green and Tim Murphy. Under Moultrie's plan, Belson will head the court's civil division; Murphy will preside over the criminal division, and Green will administer the family division, which handles domestic and juvenile matters.
In addition, Moultrie appointed Judge John Garrett Penn to be head of the tax division and Judge Margaret Austin Haywood to oversee the probate division, which handles matters involving will and estates.
Initially, the five judges have been asked to preside over the divisions for the three months, beginning in September, but the assignments are expected to be extended to six months. It is expected that other trial judges then will be selected to head the divisions.
Basically, the division heads will work closely with the court system for scheduling cases in an attempt to clean up the backlogs and improve the efficiency of procedures for moving cases through the system.
Also in connection with case backlogs, Moultrie announced that in September he plans to have a judge review most of the court's less complex civil cases to determine whether some of these disputes can be resolved by out-of-court settlements. Traffic cases that require jury trials also will be reviewed, Moultrie said.
In addition, Moultrie has extended the time each of the court's 43 trial judges will be assigned to a particular division - such as felony or misdeameanor trials - from one month to 15 weeks.