The Chief Judge of D.C. Superior Court is defending the courts against harsh criticism leveled by D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee Friday, who accused the court system of allowing violent criminals to roam the streets of the District.
“The D.C. Courts remain committed and determined to do what we can to ensure the safety of all District residents and visitors to the Nation’s Capital,” said Chief Judge Anita Josey-Herring, D.C. Superior Court, in a written statement.
The judge’s remarks came after Contee delivered scathing criticism of the court system, following a public safety walk on 14th Street Northwest where a gunman shot and wounded two people Thursday night, one of them a bystander.
“The real issue is we have a vicious cycle of bad actors who do things, no accountability, and they end up back in [the] community … why is that a guy who murdered somebody is out in [the] community after having been arrested two or three months prior with a firearm? What did we think he was going to do?” Contee asked, demanding a complete examination of the criminal justice system.
But the chief judge’s statement paints a picture of a court busy dispensing justice, even during the pandemic.
“There are currently close to 700 individuals detained on felony charges in the District awaiting trial in cases where the Court felt if released, the individuals may pose a danger or risk to the community,” the judge said.
In his remarks following a string of shootings that included the death of 6-year-old Nyiah Courtney, the police chief said the understaffed police department is an easy target for criticism, but the courts share responsibility for failing to curb the city’s gun violence.
“The justice system that we have right now is not functioning the way that it should … the courts are not open, that is a fact, barely open,” Contee said.
The head of the court system rejected the chief’s criticism.
D.C. Courts have remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, to include the Criminal Division within D.C. Superior Court.
The judge said the criminal division conducted nearly 9,000 arraignment and presentment hearings since the start of the pandemic last year.
While the police chief charged that the court system is putting violent criminals back out into the community, the chief judge vowed that the courts would continue to work to reduce gun violence and maintain public safety.