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Top Pa. Judges Seek To Streamline Philadelphia’s Court Process

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) – Two Pennsylvania State Supreme Court justices are lobbying for a change that would eliminate the practice of requiring certain Philadelphia crime victims to testify at preliminary hearings.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery (above) says Philadelphia is the only jurisdiction in the state in which people are routinely required to testify at preliminary hearings when they have had property or vehicles stolen or damaged but did not witness the crime.

McCaffery says he and Chief Justice Ronald Castille are seeking a policy change that would eliminate that requirement, although victims would still be required to appear and testify when the case goes to trial:

“It’s, one, to bring the system in line with the rest of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  And two, it is to help victims cut down on unnecessary trips to the courtroom as well as lost time from work.”

Under the new plan, the property owner’s report to police would be sufficient.  McCaffery points out that the function of a preliminary hearing is only to establish that there is sufficient evidence to try a defendant, so the standards are not the same as for the trial itself.

If a majority of the state Supreme Court agrees, the new policy will be implemented.

Reported by KYW Harrisburg Bureau Chief Tony Romeo.

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