• 57°

Criminal cases now heard in mornings

A schedule switch.

Those who must appear these days in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court on criminal cases will find themselves getting to the courthouse earlier than before.

Criminal cases, such as arraignments and pretrial conferences, are now being heard in the mornings; civil matters, such as divorces and lawsuits, are now being handled in the afternoon. Previously, it was the other way around. Presiding Judge Charles Cooper said the number of criminal cases these days warranted the switch.

“If we start (on criminal cases) at 8:30 a.m., we have all day if we run long. If we start at 1 p.m. we have only a half a day no matter how hard we try,” Cooper said. “Often the civil docket is completed in less than three hours and it seemed better to put it in the afternoon and criminal cases in the morning.”

He has a point: the number of criminal cases, even divided between Cooper and fellow judge, D. Scott Bowling, often forces the common pleas staff to work past 5 p.m. and sometimes until nearly 6, after beginning the day at 8 a.m. It is not uncommon for each judge’s Wednesday criminal court docket to have more than two dozen cases.