by Scott Ballard
Divorce is brutal. It crushes the spirit. It devastates family finances. It destabilizes children.
And sometimes I fear the court makes matters worse.
Judges can't change the nature of divorce. But, in appropriate cases, we can guide the parties to a swifter, more humane conclusion to their cases.
If elected, I plan to offer the option of a Rocket Docket. This program will not be forced upon anyone. To participate, both parties must agree.
Participants will be promised a final resolution to their divorce in five months.
How will it work?
My law clerk (my secretary position will be filled by a lawyer) will offer the program in every case. If both parties agree to participate in the Rocket Docket, they must:
(1) Agree to use only the discovery (interrogatories, notice to produce and request for production of documents) that the court has prepared and agree to shorten the reply deadline to 15, rather than 30 days;
(2) Waive a jury trial;
(3) Appear for a temporary hearing at the time set by the court; and
(4) Attempt to settle the case in mediation.
The program will be a work in progress and I'm sure we will need to improve it as we place it into practice. And, of course, some divorce cases will require the more time-consuming approach that we now see so regularly.
But, at least the Rocket Docket participants won't have to wait for their turn behind those more heavily litigated cases. And the court should have more time to devote to those cases that require a longer time to completion.
I welcome input from all sources as to how we can hear divorce cases more humanely.
by Scott Ballard
Believe it or not, courts still have the power to banish criminals from returning to the circuit. They just don't use that power as often as they did in the "wild west."
If you elect me as judge, I will protect the Constitution and the rights and liberties of all citizens. Those rights were secured for us by bloodshed on the battlefield. I have defended the Constitution my entire career--first as a defense attorney and more recently as District Attorney.
All judges defend the Constitution.
But, in criminal cases, if they stop there I think they have done only half of their job. Judges should protect the community, too.
Some judges are queasy about enforcing the law when it comes time to sentence. I won't be. I will strive to fashion a sentence that fully addresses the crime.
And one of the tools I plan to use in appropriate cases is banishment.
To do that, you must order some period of probation. The sentence can be straight probation (that means no prison) or it can be a split sentence (a period of incarceration followed by probation).
When I was a defense lawyer, my clients feared the split sentence the most. They knew the Parole Board would release them from prison before they had served the entire sentence. Having to pay a fine and follow the court's conditions of probation after they left prison sounded awful to them.
I wonder how criminals will like being banished from returning to our circuit as a condition of probation?
Banishment prevents drug dealers from leaving prison and returning to their same customers. Gang members can't rejoin their neighborhood gang. Sexual predators don't get to come back to the children with whom they had bonded.
Every once in a while a couple of our judges includes banishment as a condition of a sentence. I think we should dust off that law and put it to use far more often.
And that brings us to Ballard's Banishment Registry.
The problem with the way we banish folks today is that, unless every law enforcement officer carries around a copy of the sentence, nobody knows who is here that has been banished.
Ballard's Banishment Registry will be a website. Anybody can check it and report to law enforcement that a criminal has returned to forbidden territory.
If the prosecutor proves the violation of probation in court, we can send them back to prison.
It's just another tool in the toolbox that can make us strong again.