- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2005

Fairfax County is using technology typically found in airports to make it easier for its record number of traffic offenders to find their way to the correct courtroom.

The county’s General District Court recently installed six monitors that display the names of defendants and the courtrooms where their traffic cases will be heard. The county’s Traffic Court has an average traffic docket of more than 1,000 cases a day, county officials said.

The monitors, like those that display arrival and departure times and gates in airports, scroll through the defendants’ last names in alphabetical order. The system cost about $70,000, officials said.

Court officials said the monitors seem to help the defendants, some of whom might be running late because of traffic and ongoing construction at the Judicial Center, find their courtroom assignment quickly.

“They are helping,” said Suzy Swain, chief deputy court clerk. “The attorneys like them.”

Other court officials agree. “The good news is that the big guy can’t stand in front and block your view,” General District Court Judge Ian M. O’Flaherty said. “The screens are designed to get them to the correct court on time. Basically, the screens work very well.”

Previously, defendants and lawyers crowded around paper dockets that hung at eye level on a wall.

“Everybody was crowded around the paper dockets, trying to find what court they were going to, especially on Mondays,” Ms. Swain said. Monday is typically the busiest day.

Court officials said the monitor system will be expanded to include felony criminal cases by the time construction at the Judicial Center is completed in 2008. The courthouse is at 4110 Chain Bridge Road.

The new monitors hang high on the wall on the first floor, and list motorists’ names in large letters that can be easily read from afar. A parallel column on the screen lists the courtrooms where the defendants’ cases will be heard.

Court officials have had to shut down the monitors a couple of times since they were installed in February. The latest shutdown occurred Tuesday because of a technical problem.

As a result, volunteers, including Bob Walker and Robert Millspaugh, resumed duties that they learned before the monitors were installed. Once again relying on the paper dockets, they helped direct defendants into the correct courtrooms.

Mr. Walker, a former telecommunications aide for AT&T;, and Mr. Millspaugh, 60, a former Foreign Service employee fluent in Spanish, said the monitors had lessened their duties.

The county needed the monitors because its Traffic Court is the busiest in Virginia, officials said. Some days, as few of 400 defendants are scheduled to appear. But usually, about 1,500 cases a day are scheduled to be heard, officials said.

“Sometimes, we have had more than 2,000, but not very often,” Ms. Swain said.

Only some places in California are known to handle more traffic cases than Fairfax County.

Locally, Fairfax County judges handled 225,720 traffic cases last year, court officials said.

Judges in Montgomery County handled about 180,500 cases last fiscal year, while judges in Prince George’s County heard 152,818, court officials said this week.

Docket display systems like the one in Fairfax are showing up in more courthouses nationwide.

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