Going to trial is never a fun process for anyone, let alone a child. Most cases are marked with long delays that perpetuate trial proceedings. But the Gila County Superior Court has made the process a little easier and was recognized for these efforts by the Arizona Supreme Court on June 16.
Gila County was praised for its two-year effort to improve court procedures in cases involving children and families.
Judge Peter Cahill accepted the award for "Providing Access to Swift, Fair Justice," at the Arizona Judicial Conference in Tucson.
This award recognizes courts that have demonstrated, "substantial or creative contributions in helping citizens, victims, litigants and defendants obtain access to a fair and swift process for resolving civil or criminal cases; ensuring that resources are adequate; and ensuring court procedures, policies and practices are consistent with providing access to swift, fair justice."
It was a collaborative effort by schools, police, DPS, defense attorneys, sheriff and the court to come together and brainstorm new procedures on how to operate more effectively, said Jacque Durbin, Gila County deputy court administrator.
With new procures in place, the average case now takes 60 days to go through the system, down from 180 days two years ago.
In a press release, Judge Cahill, credited community leaders for their hard work to reduce delays and improve outcomes in abuse and neglect in delinquency and dependency cases.
Gila County Attorney Chief Deputy Patti Wortman and Juvenile Defense Attorney Elizabeth Flynn are accredited with leading efforts to reduce delays in juvenile delinquency cases.
"I am proud that Wortman and especially my office staff in Payson were recognized for all that they've done to have juveniles held accountable without delay," County Attorney Daisy Flores said in a press release. "Our goal was to make sure children get services and help from juvenile court sooner rather than later."
It is important to get a child through court as quickly as possible, Durbin said.
"If a kid does something wrong in August and it takes a year for them to go through trial, then they will not connect the punishment with the crime," she said. "You can't wait months to punish a kid."
Judge Cahill also complimented workers who have improved how the Superior Court handles dependency cases where charges of abuse and neglect are resolved. Court Mediator Doris Wait's efforts have improved how these types of cases are handled, said Cahill.
"A crucial reason for the improvement in delinquency cases was the active involvement of law enforcement, including the Payson and Globe Police Department, as well as Sheriff John Armer," said Court Administrator Mary Hawkins.
Payson Police Chief Don Engler was present at the award ceremony and said that when juvenile justice is swift, "our community is better protected."