The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across a keyboard

.

.
Available for preorder

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Criminal Trial Coordination with Cynthia Forget



Fiona - 
Cynthia Forget

Hi Cynthia, welcome to ThrillWriting, would you introduce yourself to our readers?

Cynthia - 
My name is Cynthia Forget. I am the the Criminal Trial Coordinator for 4 counties and am responsible for the scheduling and coordination of resources, services and facilities in those areas.

Fiona - 
(Please note that Cynthia lives and works in Canada)

Cynthia, I have to say that your job is not one that I had considered when plotting a novel. I am imagining all kinds of ways that a character in your position could help or hinder a plot line. Would you mind explaining specifically what it is you do in your coordination efforts?

Cynthia - 
Well, my main task is the creation and operation of the court schedule. I design the schedule to accommodate 6 judges in 14 courtrooms. I decide what courts will sit when (ie. first appearance courts, plea courts, pre-trials, and trial courts). I assign the judges to the particular courts. Once that schedule is set then
I assign cases to particular courts. I should note that all my work is overseen by a
Local Administrative Judge and the Regional Senior Justice.

Fiona - 
Can you take me through a typical day? Start with I grabbed my car keys at --:00 a.m.

Cynthia - 
I would arrive at work at 8:15 a.m. The first thing I do is obtain the lists from the courtroom clerks of everything set the day before. I put those cases into my trial schedule and generate a list of available trial times for each court. This needs to be completed before 9:00 a.m. when some courts start.

Fiona - 
Everything set the day before - that is all of the cases that were scheduled the day before?


Cynthia Forget at Work
Cynthia - 
Yes, all of the cases from the day before. those set after I left for the day - others I would have already dealt with.

Fiona - 
Why doe it need to be in by 9 if the dockets are set in advance? And how far in advance are they set?

Cynthia - 
The list of available court time has to be ready for the judges to use in court - to set matters - I provide them with the list of available times. Court starts at 9:00 and 9:30.

Then counsel starts arriving in my office to deal with their cases. They want priority court time (which is given to certain cases) or to reschedule matters etc

Fiona - 
What qualifies for priority court time? And is this one of the areas where a character might be manipulated?

Cynthia - 
Priority time is key - yes it is easily an area where cases can be manipulated. In our jurisdictions priority cases include continuations, domestic assaults, cases that are at risk for being appealed for lack of a speedy trial.

Another way cases are manipulated is through the day - I monitor the progress of each courtroom and move matters between judges as I see fit - counsel often will come and request a case be moved

Fiona - 
So if a judge is falling behind a lawyer could come to you and say - Look I have another case at 3:00 can you move me to another judge?

Cynthia - 
That's right

Fiona  - 
What if you wanted to move a case to another judge, and the lawyer absolutely was dead-set against it - he knew the other judge would be tougher on his client - could he say no?

Cynthia - 
That is strictly the decision of the trial coordinator.

Fiona - 
Interesting - so if a lawyer had developed his case to exploit what he knew about Judge X, he could all of a sudden be thrown over to Judge Y, and his tactics might be all wrong for that judge.

Cynthia - 
Right. I should note, one other scheduling point - seizures and disqualifications - if a judge hears the pre-trial of a case, they cannot then hear the trial, they are disqualified. Or if they know a party to the case, they are disqualified. So if a lawyer didn't want Judge X for trial, they may try and get him for pre-trial, knowing they will then not have him for trial.

seizure is when a judge starts a case, they have to be the one to finish it.


English: A small courtroom in the Supreme Cour...
. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fiona - 
VERY COOL DETAIL!!! Do you ever get to go and watch a trial?

Cynthia - 
Yes, on a slow day, I will often go in and sit in the courtroom and observe - not only out of interest, but also I feel it's important to stay on top of the way things run in the courtroom. - I miss the courtroom - I used to be a court reporter/clerk

Fiona - 
Oh fun! What made you change directions?

Cynthia - 
Promotion

Fiona - 
Great! 

Okay on with a day in the life of a trial coordinator. Lunch - how long is the break - is yours as long as the judge's

Cynthia - 
Yes - generally it's an hour sometimes an hour and a quarter. I try to take my lunch at noon - court usually lunches at 1:00 - that way I can interact with the stakeholders during the break ...

Fiona - 
Are you allowed to speak to people outside of your job? Can you be friends with the lawyers, have drinks with the guardian ad litems etc.

Cynthia  - 
I've never been told not to.

Fiona - 
At this point in the interview I want to make it is VERY CLEAR that you and I are speaking hypothetically. I am, as an author, looking for ways to manipulate a plot line and in no way do these questions or your answers reflect on you or your work ethic.


English: Brass weight scales with cupped trays...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cynthia - 
OK

Fiona - 
You would know all of the judges personalities and the judges quirks, personal stories, and sentencing choices?

Cynthia - 
Yes.

Fiona - 
You know something about the cases that are going to court? Would a trial coordinator read the charges etc.

Cynthia - 
Not all the cases but definitely the larger ones

Fiona - 
What information do you have when scheduling?

Cynthia - 
A coordinator would read the files for most cases the charge, the defense counsel, the Crown Attorney, the pre-trial judge, the time estimated for trial the number and type of witnesses

Fiona - 
And one would also read the newspapers - a coordinator might have familiarity and opinions about a case?

Cynthia -
Yes...

Fiona - 
 My thought is - if a character had some kind of God-complex and wanted to manipulate outcomes -- that a character could potentially line up cases with the judge that would have the most bias or give the strongest prison sentences - is that possible?


Old gavel and court minutes displayed at the M...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Cynthia - 
Absolutely

Fiona -
Is there the potential then for a character to be bribed? Say a family thinks the evidence is weak - but their daughter is dead, and they know in their heart that this is the guy who did it. - The family is worried that he'll walk. Is there the potential for bribing a coordinator so she will schedule the trial with the hard-nosed judge?

Cynthia - 
I suppose that is possible.

Fiona - 
And there's not really any way that the character would be caught except perhaps by the tax guy?

Cynthia - 
The character could be overseen by another staff member or the judiciary. for example, if a character was offered a "gift" by a defense attorney and a judge witnessed it that could cost them their job. I am not allowed to accept even the smallest of gifts - like chocolate at Christmas - for the sake of perception.

Fiona -
No chocolate at Christmas - that's martyrdom! But they would be more circumspect than that - say an envelope of cash dropped through their home mail-slot?

Cynthia -
I suppose a character could make that happen - though predicting what one judge will do is very difficult.

Fiona - 
Let's chat about that. How much contact would the character have with a judge? Would they hear water-cooler talk about the judge's private lives?

Cynthia - 
A lot of contact - and yes the trial coordinator (t/c) works very closely with judges.

Fiona  -
I'm thinking a wayward wife case and ensuing homicide. And the t/c knows that the judge's wife left him for another man... or something along that line. Or a doper case is coming up, and the t/c knows the judge's kid is in rehab...

Cynthia - 
Right - those types of things would definitely be in the t/c's knowledge

Fiona - 
So the t/c knows the judges buttons. Do they also know how a judge likes to sentence? For example, do you know "Judge Mayers" likes to give benefit of the doubt, but  "Judge Harlock" puts them in the pokey for the longest time allowed by law.

Cynthia - 
Right - all the judges have their pet peeves, so to speak, and the t/c would generally know how harsh they sentence - so too do counsel - they generally know how they sentence on certain cases and attempt to do what is called "judge shopping" this is something the t/c has to guard against.

Fiona - 
So if the character were quietly dating the hunky lawyer - or have a mad crush on him - he might be able to suggest the judge he might like?

Cynthia - 
True

Fiona - 
I know that you encounter many personality types in your job - but are there any traits that would make this job easier and what personalities (doing the job correctly - just speaking personality wise) would make this a pain in the rear.

Cynthia - 
Lawyers who are very self-centered make the job much more challenging - the same can be said for judges.

Fiona - 
So I'm a writer I'm developing a character to do this job - she is helped out by her excellent memory and organizational skills but her anger towards men... that kind of thing.

Cynthia - 
Being a bit of a control-freak is a good thing in this job - being very friendly and cooperative also helps

Fiona - 
Here on ThrilWriting we have a traditional question and always ask about your favorite scar.

Cynthia - 
My biggest scar is internal - I had a baby who died inside me at 14 weeks - She didn't miscarry and had to be surgically removed - it was a very harrowing experience.

Fiona - 
I'm so sorry. 

Cynthia - 
Thank you


Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.


No comments:

Post a Comment