Henry County’s criminal calendars have gotten a little less onerous. For years, each Henry County superior court judge has required 80 to 160 criminal defendants to report for trial at the same time. Some other counties use short lists where only 20 to 30 of the oldest cases are required to report for trial. The physical impossibility of trying 100 or more defendants in a single trial week makes it difficult to predict when a given case will be tried. It creates a system where defendants and counsel must rreport to court multiple times before a case is actually tried, and be prepared for trial each time. This makes defending Henry County cases time needlessly time consuming and significantly increases the cost of a zealous defense.
Departing from tradition, on July 10, Judge Amero required only the first 25 cases on his calendar to report for trial. This may represent a one-time occurrence rather than a new practice as Judge Amero had planned in advance to try a murder case during his July 10 trial week. It is unclear how many cases Judge Amero will require to report the next time he has not preselected a major case to be tried first. Furthermore, even those defendants who were not required to report to court were placed on two hour call, meaning they and their attorneys were expected to be in court and ready to pick a jury within two hours of being notified by phone. Thus, a conscientious attorney must be prepared to try a case every time it appears on Judge Amero’s trial calendar, regardless of whether he must report to court.
I hope Judge Amero’s small experiment represents a step towards shorter trial lists, where cases appear on fewer calendars and all involved know that a notice to report for trial means what it says.