New rules imposed on Philadelphia courts

    New rules aimed at making Philadelphia’s court system more efficient go into effect on April 6. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has imposed the new rules to reduce the number of criminal cases that get dropped without a ruling. But not everyone is happy with all the changes.

    New rules aimed at making Philadelphia’s court system more efficient go into effect on April 6. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has imposed the new rules to reduce the number of criminal cases that get dropped without a ruling. But not everyone is happy with all the changes.

    The Supreme Court has limited the leeway the city’s Municipal Court judges have to postpone cases. But it has also extended the minimum time between an arrest and a preliminary hearing.

    Assistant District Attorney Joseph McGettigan says the changes are meant to unclog the court system overall, which will benefit defendants sitting in jail.

    McGettigan: “We may be able to take cases out of the system by a guilty plea, by non-trial disposition, by an agreement to accept responsibility for the charges.”

    Assistant Public Defender Charles Cunningham isn’t buying that argument. Cunningham says extending the deadline for a hearing – from a week and a half to 21 days – means poor defendants will linger longer in jail.

    Cunningham: “It may not make a difference for those who are fortunate enough to be able to afford bail. But for those who are poor and are unable to afford bail, they will remain incarcerated. And if they have any kind of employment by the time that 21 days has expired, they will probably lose their job.”

    Cunningham says the changes benefit prosecutors. He’s angry the high court didn’t consult his office.

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