The Human Side of Being a Judge
The People Who Make Courts Work
The Berks County Criminal Court is a extremely busy one. Each case involves not just a defendant and a defense attorney to represent him or her but also district attorney to prosecute the case and an adult probation office to prepare the necessary documents for a plea and/or sentence. In addition to them, each courtroom is staffed with courtroom personnel. A court reporter, whom I always call the most important person, takes down every word that is said in the courtroom. We have a criminal court clerk in criminal court, whose job it is to handle files and keep the records straight. In addition, if I am having a criminal trial week, I have two jury tipstaffs, who provide assistance to the members of a jury panel. Each judge has a secretary, a law clerk to provide research assistance in writing opinions, and a courtroom coordinator. A courtroom coordinator is responsible for helping the courtroom operate smoothly: To keep cases flowing and to ensure that attorneys are ready. It is really the coordinator who knows which cases are completed and which cases are coming up. In addition, each courtroom in the criminal division and family division has a sheriff. Sheriffs aren't assigned in the civil division on a routine basis.
This is a large effort to enable the criminal justice system to cope with the ever-growing number of cases. In Berks County, we have a very professional group of men and women who work within the court system. I understand that the court system is often the brunt of politicians' complaints about costs. However, by moving cases along at a faster rate, which may require more staff, it saves all of us tax dollars in the end by getting people into and out of the court system in a more expeditious manner.
Adapted from a speech by Judge Linda Ludgate of Pennsylvania.