Courts in neighborhoods for swifter Phila. justice

For years, Philadelphia’s court system has been a picture of dysfunction. Today, District Attorney Seth Williams will announce an innovative strategy aimed at fixing many of the chronic problems.

Starting Monday, Williams’ office will begin community-based prosecution, which will eliminate four units currently in the DA’s office and assign those prosecutors to six bureaus across the city aligned with police districts. Prosecutors will handle cases in their area and the bureaus will be staffed based crime in that area, Williams said.

The goal is to speed up the process and establish community relationships.

“Hopefully the community will see that there are specific people that aren’t fly-by-night, but that they’re here, they are embedded in the community, they care about the community — and that they are a face that understands their problems,” Williams said.

Defense attorney Michael Coard applauds the plan, but said that reassigning prosecutors will not address the core problem in the way cases are charged. “The issue is not one of community courts, but one of common sense prosecution. The DA’s office has to stop bad cops from making bad arrests,” Coard said.

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