Local judges implementing stricter rules

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Chad Darnall

PADUCAH, Ky.--Jeopardizing justice to save time? Some local attorneys fear some judges are doing just that.
But those judges say more than time is on the line.
This is the problem, according to McCracken Circuit Judge Craig Clymer; each month two to three criminal defendants wait until a day or two before trial to accept a plea deal.
That's a deal that was offered and not accepted more than a month before.
The judge said that's slowing down the system and causing problems for everyone involved.

Imagine being a witness, having to set a day or two or three aside from work and family, and then learning at the last minute you're not needed. Perhaps the worst scenario is if you're over here, in jail, waiting for your day in court. Meanwhile, the courtroom is not in use because the person on the docket for the day just changed their mind.

Fair and speedy, that's what the sixth amendment states. But Circuit Judge Craig Clymer said there's a problem.

"We're expending resources and time and money," Clymer said.

To prepare for trials that never even start.

"We just get a call from the attorney saying they'd like to enter a plea of guilty, take a plea of guilty in five minutes. When those trial dates are no longer needed, they're just wasted," Clymer said.
wasted dates that could've been used for people in jail, sitting and waiting for their day in court.

But some defense attorneys disagree with the judge and clearly stated their case at an area bar association meeting today.

Those attorneys say they need all the time they can get.
"What I'm hearing is we're not taking this seriously, that's the furthest thing from the truth," one attorney said.

But Judges Clymer and Tim Kaltenbach are already 'laying down the law,' and referring to their new rules, like it or not.

The judges went before the bar today to ask for their opinion and they hope to form a committee made up of local attorneys to decide exactly what the new rule will be.
Judge Clymer told us there will be exceptions to the rule.

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