Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Criminal Justice in Hawaii

The Judiciary's annual report - entitled Justice in Jeopardy - details the current state of the Hawaiian Judiciary and discusses the impact that furloughs and budget cuts have had on the operation of the court system.  The report itself is 14 pages long and is a very easy read if you're interested.  However, since I know most people 1) don't care, 2) don't like to read boring things, and 3) like interesting bullet points, here is something I think people might want to know - the criminal stuff.

Before I get to the facts and figures, I have to explain why I decided to highlight this.  Every time I get asked what kind of law I practice, I calmly (and quickly) explain that I work for a judge.  Then I get asked, "so do you do prosecution or defense?"  See, I have two theories as to why this is the case:  1) the person did not read my blog post on how the judiciary works, and 2) most people get their information about the legal system from Law & Order.  So no one really understands anything beyond criminal law.  Even if they've been to civil court before, people think the "plaintiff" is the "prosecution." Besides all that, the sexy stuff of the law is found in who's going to jail.

Here is a quote from an attorney in private practice about the current criminal justice system in Hawaii: “[A]s a practicing litigator, I can share with you the impact that the budget cuts on the Judiciary have caused.  Among my case load, I have a case that is about four years old that has been ready to go to trial since late last year.  It has been delayed because of the backlog of criminal trials and was recently reset to [redacted], 2011 - a year away.  Many of my colleagues are reporting similar occurrences. The Judiciary allows economic, political and social life to function properly and it must be spared any further budget cuts.”

So here you go:  In FY2010, the Hawai'i Judiciary was involved with:

◆ 68,041 criminal traffic cases including:
          • 13,593 DWI/DUI cases
          • 1,264 reckless driving cases

◆ 94,479 District Court criminal cases including:
          • 9,413 larceny/theft cases
          • 6,154 assault cases
          • 2,169 vandalism cases
          • 1,349 prostitution cases
          • 4,096 narcotics cases
          • 1,232 sex offense cases

◆ 17,220 Circuit Court criminal cases including:
          • 178 murder & manslaughter cases
          • 97 forcible rape cases
          • 1,602 aggravated assault cases
          • 1,235 burglary cases
          • 2,686 larceny/theft cases
          • 3,633 narcotics cases

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