Center for Court Innovation
Upon witnessing the City’s dedication to the project, the State allocated existing funding sources to the Community Court, as well as issuing a $5.8 million bond for renovation of the building which houses it. The building, which it owns, is next to the Superior Court building. It took “buy-in” from the Governor’s Office to obtain the building, and the State’s Department of Public Works assisted in its renovation.
The Court’s first-year budget includes $1.3 million from the City, plus $300,000 in “in-kind” City staff for the Human Services Department.8 In addition, the State has put up approximately $300,000 of “in-kind” money to support the salaries of courtroom personnel and social service staff.
Court staff include a judge, who is permanently assigned to the Court; five full-time court clerks and one deputy clerk;9 sheriff’s deputies, who provide courthouse securi- ty (eight special deputies have been permanently reallocated to the Community Court); a prosecutor, who is permanently stationed at the Community Court so that he is familiar with its procedures and operations; and two Bail Commission workers, who conduct preliminary assessment interviews.
The Court’s human services staff include five individuals from the Hartford Department of Human Services; two people from the State Department of Social Services; and three individuals from the State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS). The Court’s human services coordinator explained that it is especially important to have the participation of this latter organization which serves as the gatekeeper for mental health and substance abuse services. A private contractor, Community Partners in Action, provides the Court with the afore- mentioned five alternative sanctions staff who develop and oversee community serv- ice projects, and monitor and report on compliance.
The Community Court is designed to deal with “nuisance” cases, including both non- violent misdemeanors and municipal ordinance violations. A prime goal of the Hartford Community Court is to respond constructively to those who “make a nui- sance of themselves.” In handling these cases the Court is addressing behavior which traditionally has not received a meaningful response from the court system.
The Superior Court handled roughly 16,000 criminal cases — misdemeanors and felonies — annually before the court opened. Planners expected the Community Court to process 6,000 of these cases (or approximately 38% of the dockets). If so, the Superior Court’s caseload would drop substantially — an expected system benefit.
The following table, based on a year’s worth of court data, indicates the major misdemeanor charge categories expected to constitute the Community Court’s annu- al caseload:
8 As this in-kind money is earmarked for staff who were already employed by the State before the Court, these are not new expenditures, but a reallocation of existing resources.
9 Clerks' roles at the Community Court are the same as at the Superior Court, except for one who serves as the administrative assistant to the Judge, performing tasks such as writing the Court's newsletter.