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Philadelphia’s “Zone Court” System Begins Monday

Philadelphia DA Seth Williams (center of photo) is surrounded by court and police officials during Thursday's press briefing.  photo by Tony Hanson.

Philadelphia DA Seth Williams (center of photo) is surrounded by court and police officials during Thursday’s press briefing. photo by Tony Hanson.

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cjc hanson6 Philadelphias Zone Court System Begins Monday

file photo by Tony Hanson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The City of Philadelphia is gearing up for a major change in how some criminal cases are handled.  Authorities are addressing everything from prisoner transport to courtrooms to elevator management for the expected bigger crowds.

And officials behind the concept — called “zone court” — held a briefing Thursday for the news media.

Beginning next Monday morning, felony preliminary hearings will be heard in the Criminal Justice Center (right), at 13th and Filbert Streets in center city, rather than in neighborhood police stations.

Authorities say the zone courts will add 70-100 additional cases — or more — each day to the building that sits in the shadow of City Hall, but add that the system should be more efficient.  District attorney Seth Williams:

“Philadelphia leads the nation in the rate of preliminary hearings dismissed not on their merits, just because the victims, the police, the witnesses couldn’t be brought in within the appropriate time. The preliminary hearings were made so onerous, almost like a Bataan death march for victims.”

The DA, the courts, police, and others have collaborated to try to make this change happen, and to work.

Reported by Tony Hanson, KYW Newsradio 1060.