Court finds 'no continuing need for the pre-assignment of trial settings'

The Madison County Record Apr. 7, 2012, 7:59am

Madison County is setting aside 5,000 trial slots for the perpetrators of violent crime next year: homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, etc.

Skeptics point out that there were slightly more than 3,000 such offenses in Madison County in a recent two-year period and that not all the cases went to trial, but local law enforcement authorities are confident that violent crime will skyrocket once word gets out about the increased availability of trial slots.

Not only will the incidence of crime increase among county residents, they predict, but the added opportunities for prosecution will almost certainly attract lawbreakers from other counties and states as well.

Civic boosters say the trials will be good for the local economy, if not for the individual victims.

It's a little late for April Fools, but we are kidding. The idea of setting trial dates in advance of the causes of action is absurd. It is a joke.

Unfortunately, that's how our local asbestos docket operated, until recently, when Madison County Associate Judge Clarence Harrison put a stop to it.

Last December, Madison County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Crowder assigned more than 500 trial slots for the 2013 asbestos docket. Most of the cases did not exist at the time but were created to fill the slots, and few had any connection to Madison County.

The three local asbestos law firms awarded the bulk of those slots expressed their appreciation with generous contributions to Crowder's campaign committee. Crowder has since been removed from that assignment and given a "change of venue."

Last week, Judge Harrison revoked Crowder's schedule of asbestos trial slots for 2013.

"The Court," he commented, "finds no continuing need for the pre-assignment of trial settings."

Harrison will use the standard jury trial calendar, with dates set by motion on a case-by-case basis and preference given to cases involving the elderly and dying.

Will this sensible administrative approach put a damper on asbestos case filings? We hope so. And if so, the Madison county taxpayers will benefit from lower courtroom costs.

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