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Things are changing at the Justice Center

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Editorial: Jan. 6, 2013

ISSUE: New commonwealth attorney begins
OUR VIEW: Shane Young's vibrancy is needed

Things are about to change at the Justice Center.

It begins Monday when Shane Young takes the formal oath of office to become commonwealth’s attorney.

His election as Hardin County’s new chief prosecutor responsible for felony matters was quiet because the incumbent stepped aside and no challengers surfaced. His tenure will not be so quiet.

Working in conjunction with County Attorney Jenny Oldham and her staff, Young’s team promises a new vibrancy. They hope to develop a reputation for effectiveness that quickly will become a model for the state.

It focuses on providing justice that is swift and sure as well as consistent and fair.

A key element to be addressed: The length of time suspects remain in the system awaiting trial.

Young pledges early conferences with defense attorneys representing accused clients who are ready to admit guilt and accept responsibility for their actions. The negotiated plea would include a waiver of the grand jury process and move the case to a resolution much sooner.

Young stresses swifter justice can bring about swifter care for drug-addicted suspects and swifter restitution for victims. The goal is not just speed. The new prosecutor emphasizes his focus is on better outcomes.

This rocket docket concept died here for lack of funding. Young has hopes of finding money and Judge-Executive Harry Berry is favorably disposed to the concept. But Young says there’s a value for his office and for justice in general. Therefore, he’s implementing it immediately and not waiting for financial assistance.

Also, the grand jury process itself will be refined. The indictments will be returned and processed weekly rather than monthly. That could advance a case by three weeks or more depending on when charges were filed.

In addition to the judicial advantage here, it has real dollar impact for county government that’s routinely drained by jail expenses. Inmates staying in the Hardin County Detention Center are housed at the county’s expense while awaiting trial.

Upon conviction, these same people become the responsibility of state government. Speeding the process also is expected to mean local savings at the jail when state dollars arrive sooner.

Another element of the plans are routine conferences with the county attorney’s staff to coordinate matters with child protection issues. Young and Oldham recognize that families in the local court’s child protection track often are there because a family member is on the criminal prosecution side.

Working together, it’s hoped that the resolutions can complement each other and that children can be spared unnecessarily repetitive time in court.

Some elements of the plans cannot be resolved by prosecutors alone. Local judges have agreed to relax the calendars and double book some trial dates when necessary and at times overlap some criminal cases into the week previously set aside solely for civil matters.

The success of their efforts also depend on the police and defense attorneys. Young has assigned areas of responsibility to each assistant in his office in hopes that concentration on particular elements of law will bring about a consistency of action that will benefit all involved in the judicial process.

Young has great faith in his abilities, his ideas and his colleagues. Most of all, he has faith in the local justice system.

His enthusiasm and energy are greatly welcomed. It’s the first time the community has had reason to smile about the commonwealth attorney’s office in some time.

Monday’s swearing in is not a routine oath of office. It is the beginning in a major shift from the recent past and one that has the potential to make a significant impact at the Justice Center and across the community. 

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.