Philadelphia Common Pleas courts to shuffle

    Changing organization from the type of case to geography.

    Philadelphia Common Pleas Courts are restructuring so judges will be assigned based on geography, not the type off offense. The goal is to cut down on witness intimidation and create a close connection between prosecutors and neighborhood groups. But some Philadelphia lawyers are concerned with one aspect of the change.

    Part of the plan calls for eliminating preliminary hearings at six police districts in the city by November 1st. Those hearings will now be held at the Criminal Justice Center at 13th and Filbert Streets.

    That could present space problems at the C.J.C., according to Thomas Fitzpatrick. He’s the co-chair of the Criminal Justice Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

    “One of the things that we’re going to deal with is an increase in volume in the Criminal Justice Center and whether or not we have the physical facilities to hold all of the defendants who are currently in custody in the cell room at the Criminal Justice Center.”

    Fitzpatrick also says it’s unclear who will transport the prisoners. Defendants whose hearings are currently held at police districts are transported by police officers, while those at the C.J.C. are handled by the Sheriff’s Office, which may be ill equipped to handle the additional load.

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