Charlotte Cuts DWI Judge Shopping, Speeds Cases


Defense attorneys for drunk driving suspects in Charlotte, N.C., will find it harder to shop for lenient judges, says the Charlotte Observer. An Observer investigation found that defenders often try to avoid tough judges by “judge shopping”–postponing cases, hoping they’ll get more lenient judges when the case is rescheduled. Under a plan by Chief District Judge Fritz Mercer, one judge will be assigned to each of the three district courtrooms where drunken driving cases and most other misdemeanors are handled. Defense lawyers would have little incentive to seek postponements because they’d likely get the same judge.

“It’s greater consistency for the bar,” Mercer said. “They know what to expect from the judges. … I think it will slow (judge shopping) down a great deal.” He hopes the move will help resolve cases faster and reduce the backlog. About 2,500 to 3,000 DWI cases are pending. average, DWI cases in Mecklenburg County take nine months to resolve — about two months longer than the N.C. average. As cases get older, it’s more likely that witnesses will move, evidence will be lost, and cases will fall apart and be dismissed. Mercer’s goal is to resolve DWI cases within six months. “I believe in swift and sure punishment, and that means cases coming to trial quickly,” he said.


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