Media FAQs

 

Who should reporters contact with questions, requests for information and to get on a press list?

 

The current Director of Media & Public Relations for the DC Courts is Leah Gurowitz. She can be reached at 202/879-1700 or leah.gurowitz@dcsc.gov

 

 


 

Are hearings in C-10 scheduled?

 

No.  The arraignment courtroom, C-10, opens each day at 1pm to hear arraignments and presentments.  The court does not set a specific time for those hearings, as there are generally 60 to 120 hearings per day.  Each arrest is reviewed by the US Attorney’s office (USAO) and its prosecutors  determine whether to file charges, and if so which charges to file, and whether to request detention pre-trial. The Pretrial Services Agency has  Before his or her case can be called in the courtroom, each defendant must be seen by his or her attorney and interviewed by a member of Pretrial Services Agency’s staff for the background report they prepare for the judge who is sitting in C-10 that day.  The Pretrial Services Agency has to confirm information provided and gather criminal background information.   In addition, USMS has to take custody of the defendants from the Metropolitan Police Department and transport them to the cellblock and then the courtroom.  When the charging papers have been filed and the PSA report finalized, and the defendant, his or her attorney, the prosecutor are all in the courtroom, the case may be called.

 

 


 

What is the difference between and arraignment and a presentment?

 

A presentment is the first hearing in a felony case.  An arraignment is a hearing at which a defendant must enter a plea.  In misdemeanor cases, that is the initial hearing in C-10.  In felony cases the initial hearing is the presentment and then there is an arraignment scheduled if a grand jury returns an indictment in the case.  At a felony arraignment, the judge who is handling the felony case holds a hearing at which the defendant must plead guilty or not guilty to the charges in the indictment.

 

 


 

Which agency prosecutes criminal cases in DC Superior Court?

 

The US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia is responsible for prosecuting higher level misdemeanor and all felony cases.  The DC Office of the Attorney General is responsible for prosecuting juvenile cases, traffic and 'quality of life' misdemeanors (case types, DEL, CTF and CDC).

 

 


 

How long does the US Attorney’s Office have to get an indictment?

 

In general in DC, a case is dismissed if the US Attorney’s Office does not get a grand jury to issue an indictment within nine months of the initial hearing (presentment) in a felony case.

 

 


 

I’m using the DC Superior Court's online case search (eAccess www.dccourts.gov/eAccess ) to try to see documents in a Superior Court case, but I can’t get them to download.  Why?

 

Please see the eAccess User Guide https://www.dccourts.gov/sites/default/files/eaccess/eAccess-User-Guide-Updated.pdf.  On page 2 it indicates which case types have documents available and which do not (and when the Court began scanning each case type).  The document icon by certain docket entries just indicates that it has a document affiliated with it, not that the document is definitely available remotely.

 

 


 

 How do I order a transcript?

 

You must contact the Court Reporting Division – see detailed instructions here:

https://www.dccourts.gov/about/learn-more/court-reporting-and-recording-division

 

 


 

Are all criminal hearings open?  Civil?

 

Yes to both.

 

 


 

Can I bring my cellphone in to the courthouse?

 

Yes, but you may not use the camera or audio recorder in the courthouse or on court property.

 

 


What is a ‘show cause’ hearing?

A ‘show cause’ hearing, often just referred to as ‘a show cause’ is a hearing at which the defendant must show cause why he or she should not have his status (pretrial release or probation) revoked due to non-compliance with conditions of that status.


Does sentencing occur as soon as a verdict is reached, or a plea is entered, in a criminal case?

 

Often for misdemeanors, if a defendant is found or pleas guilty, the judge will sentence him or her at that time.  For felony cases, the judge will set a date approximately 6-8 weeks in the future, to allow time for the Pretrial Supervision Agency (the report is prepared by CSOSA not PSA) to compile a presentence report (note: such reports are confidential).  That report has a range of personal information about the defendant, their family, their background, as well as what DC’s voluntary sentencing guidelines provide as the suggested range of time that they should be sentenced to.

 


 

What agency handles supervision of defendants on release/ on probation?

 

The DC Pretrial Services Agency supervises all defendants who are not detained pre-trial, ensuring compliance with conditions of release.  The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) supervises adult defendants who are sentenced to probation.  Both are independent federal agencies, not part of the DC Courts.  Juveniles on probation are supervised by the Court Social Services Division of DC Superior Court

 

 


 

Are DC Courts federal or state courts?

 

The DC Courts are the judicial branch of the DC government, one of three co-equal branches.  The Courts are entrusted with the essential role of preserving the rule of law while protecting civil rights and liberties and public safety in DC.  Funding for the courts comes via a congressional appropriation.  DC Courts' judges are selected by the DC Judicial Nominations Commission, a local body, which sends three names to the President for each vacancy.  The President nominates one of those three people and sends the name to the US Senate for its advice and consent. If confirmed by the Senate, the judge serves a 15-year term; he or she can then seek reappointment for a subsequent 15 year term.

The Courts’ have jurisdiction over disputes arising in the District of Columbia and apply DC law, as enacted by the DC Council, ensuring fairness and consistency with the US Constitution.

 

 


 

Where do appeals of DC Superior Court decisions go?

 

The DC Court of Appeals serves as the 'court of last resort' for DC, hearing all appeals from DC Superior Court, as well as DC agencies' decisions.  It has the same role as a state supreme court.  (Note – DC Superior Court magistrate judges' decisions must first be appealed to DC Superior Court associate judges).

 

 


 

How do I find out more about how state courts work?

 

Please see this video by the National Center for State Courts: https://vimeo.com/299681452