Warren County’s new arraignment court is scheduled to start hearing cases soon.
County officials plan to start the county’s new night and weekend arraignment court in the coming weeks, after two years of planning and state approval process.
The town and city court judges who will preside over the court were finalizing a schedule and being trained on the court’s procedures and computer software this week. Glens Falls Judge Gary Hobbs, the supervising judge for town and village justices in Warren, Washington, Essex and Hamilton counties who has overseen the project, said he hopes that it will be up and running by the end of May.
A courtroom was created in the booking area of the former Warren County Jail at the back of the county Municipal Center, and it has been furnished and equipped, including a security post. The county Buildings and Grounds Department did the work.
“They did a really nice job with the courtroom,” Hobbs said.
All of the town and city judges in the county, except for one who is retiring, have opted in to the rotating schedule, he said.
The plans to get the court going were slowed up by security demands from the state Office of Court Administration, but the state agency approved the program last fall.
“The biggest issue has been security,” Hobbs said.
The county will pay the security tabs for the court, but county Administrator Ryan Moore said the cost was not yet known.
The plan is designed to save costs through travel and pay for attorneys, police and judges who are called out to arraign those charged with crimes and other offenses when courts are not open.
State rules that required defense counsel to be present at court appearances where a defendant is at risk of being jailed have changed the court system in recent years, resulting in lawyers on both sides of a case being called out at all hours. Instead, defendants will be held in a lockup at Warren County Jail until the next scheduled arraignment time in the morning or night, when attorneys will make themselves available.
The new program is similar to one that is underway in Washington County, where judges rotate in an on-call schedule and hold arraignments in the morning and evening as needed at the county jail in Fort Edward. County officials, police, attorneys and judges have raved about its efficiency.
Washington County’s arraignment part was nominated for an “outstanding criminal justice program” award from the National Criminal Justice Association last year.