The chairman of a key Senate subcommittee has given preliminary support to a request for more D.C. Superior Court judges to help handle additional cases that may be generated as the result of legislation aimed at keeping repeat offenders off the streets.
Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.), chairman of the subcommittee that holds the D.C. government's purse strings, said he will "look favorably" on a request by Chief Judge H. Carl Moultrie I to add seven more judges to the court's present 44.
D'Amato's office yesterday released copies of a letter from Moultrie and a letter he sent Moultrie in response, stating that if more judges are needed, "you may be sure that I will look favorably on your request."
"If the Superior Court is to be able to adequately assume its responsibility in the crime arena, I must have additional judicial power at once," Moultrie wrote to D'Amato, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the District of Columbia.
Moultrie has said in the past that he needs more judges, and recent studies done by the D.C. Bar Association also called for adding several more judges to handle the growing backlog of cases at the court. There are more than 3,000 misdemeanor cases and nearly 2,000 felony cases backed up in the system.
Court officials said Moultrie's specific request was prompted by new legislation, approved by the City Council last week at D'Amato's urging, that would give law enforcement officials increased powers to detain repeat offenders before trial.
One new provision allows persons arrested for a crime while out on bail for a previous offense to be held for three days, pending a hearing before the judge who allowed the release on the first charge. Other changes make it easier for persons accused of first-degree murder to be held without bond and increase the time law enforcement officials have to prepare to revoke probation or parole for anyone rearrested for a new crime.
Court officials said yesterday they are not sure at this point how many additional hearings would be required. "There is no way to know now, but there is no question there will be a significant increase in the number of hearings," one official said.
U.S. Attorney Stanley S. Harris said yesterday that he expects prosecutors also will make increased use of pretrial detention provisions that require hearings within five days and require trials to be held within 90 days--again making additional demands on the court.
In his reply to Moultrie, D'Amato said he was "pleased" with the "District Government's renewed commitment to cracking down on violent crime."