The Law: The Scandal of Court Congestion

The nation's local criminal courts stand alongside the police as the frontline of U.S. law and order. But in city after city, they have become scandalously congested—nowhere worse than in New York City, a paradigm of American judicial failure.

The clog in New York's criminal courts is so monumental that in 1968 they took on 480,000 new cases and wound up with 520,000 still unsettled. The backlog has multiplied nearly 15 times in ten years. Preliminary-hearing sessions are so jammed that 30 seconds is a typical proceeding. After that, the average defendant waits two months before getting to plead guilty or not...

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