Judge’s 119-Case Day Sparks Legal Concerns

Judge Amber Givens | Image by Dallas County

A single Dallas County judge has over 100 felony trial cases slated for April 1.

Judge Amber Givens of the 282nd District Court scheduled an overwhelming 119 criminal cases that day next week, jamming up her docket in the hopes of enhancing efficiency in her courtroom.

“She’s entitled to set her docket how she wants,” said Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, according to NBC 5 DFW. “Will this be effective? Only time will tell.”

Creuzot also voiced concern over whether the prosecutors assigned to Judge Givens’ court could meet the necessary burden of proof on their cases, telling The Dallas Morning News, “There’s no way physically that we can be ready on those cases.”

A flurry of plea deals and dropped charges might be the result, the latter of which is likely to bolster Creuzot and his office’s reported reputation for being soft on crime. For instance, Creuzot’s relatively short-lived theft “amnesty” policy led to detractors referring to him as “Let-em-Go” Creuzot.

Judge Givens’ unprecedented move has sparked concerns among some legal practitioners, who fear its implications for the fairness of trials.

For instance, Douglas Huff, former president of the Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, suggested that she was overstepping her job as “umpire” by attempting to “force the process,” according to DMN.

By attempting to speed up proceedings, she has mandated either plea deals or trials, leaving prosecutors and defense attorneys scrambling to prepare for what could potentially be a mountain of work for the considered caseload. Even though not all cases will likely make it to trial, there have been questions surrounding the feasibility of defense attorneys adequately representing their clients under such strenuous conditions.

“We’re not fighting over a bank account or a contract — we’re talking about human beings and their liberties,” said Huff, speaking to WFAA. “We’re talking about people potentially spending years or life in prison, and every one of these cases is specific and has its own facts. It’s not about doing it quickly — it’s about doing it right.”

Judge Givens has come under heavy scrutiny in the past. In August 2021, the Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association filed a criminal complaint against Givens, alleging that her court coordinator, Arceola Warfield, impersonated her and conducted a Zoom hearing in her place. Despite this, the Kaufman County District Attorney ultimately decided not to pursue criminal charges against her.

On the other hand, some have spoken in favor of Judge Givens’ approach, suggesting that the legal community acknowledges the need for streamlining processes to ensure timely resolutions.

“Her system holds both the state and the defense accountable,” said Heath Harris, a defense attorney and former prosecutor, per DMN. “… In the end, it’s going to prove to be a more efficient system.”

Steven Lafuente, another defense attorney, was a bit more reserved in his approval of Judge Givens’ approach. While applauding her bold initiative, he wondered how much more effective it was than the tried-and-true system. 

“We get cases tried, and we get them moved without all this anxiety,” he added, per DMN.

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