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12 23Wed10222014

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Back Local News AGO buckling under ‘staggering’ case load

AGO buckling under ‘staggering’ case load

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THE Attorney General’s Office reported a "staggering" load of 2,000 adult cases and 500 juvenile delinquency cases filed per year during a roundtable discussion held yesterday at the Legislature.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Phillip J. Tydingco also reported 8,296 adult open cases on file at the AGO during the roundtable discussion convened by Sen. Frank B. Aguon Jr., who chairs the judiciary committee.

“We presently have about 18 prosecutors in the adult division. So if you are trying to average that, that’s about 500 cases per prosecutor,” Tydingco said.

Chief Prosecutor J. Basil O’Mallan III also said the average 2,000 cases that are filed every year are active cases that have to be handled on a frequent basis.

“We average 125 criminal cases every day that we have attorneys covering in court. We have seven courtrooms and we normally have morning and afternoon sessions,” O’Mallan said.

The case load is getting staggering, he said, adding the AGO makes great effort to notify victims, not just in the resolution of the case or disposition of the defender.

Carol Hinkle-Sanchez, who serves as the deputy attorney general for the Family Division, said her division’s number of cases went up by 300 this year. Her office, which has a team of five prosecutors, reported 800 cases handled this year.

“The cases that we currently have open ranges between 1,000 to 1,200 open juvenile matters. And that’s just juvenile delinquency and juvenile drug court matters,” Hinkle-Sanchez said.

Aside from the heavy case load, concerns were also raised about federal cuts impacting the Victim Witness Ayuda Services (VWAS), the AGO’s advocate program.

Tydingco said the nine advocates under VWAS are 100 percent federally funded. To address this concern, Tydingco said they are looking at possibly reclassifying the positions covered by the program in the future so they can be supported by general funds.

Act

Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas, prior to the start of the roundtable meeting, said the conversation must begin with the Crime Victims Rights Act, since the law provides victims and victims’ families notice of major events in their cases, be they magistrate hearings, arraignments, or changes of pleas.

“It is the policy of this office to attempt to contact victims and families of victims at the very beginning of their entry into the criminal justice system. We have a team of dedicated advocates and prosecutors who, from the moment they receive the police reports, are contacting victims, getting contact information, and informing them about what will happen next,” Rapadas said.

Victim contact, he stressed, is the rule of the AGO – not the exception. “We will hear about the ones that fell [through] the cracks, but you know what, I want to hear that. It is not perfect; the system is not perfect, but it works. Can it be tweaked to work better? Of course it can,” he said.

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