DC Courts Remain Committed Partners in Ensuring the Safety of Every Resident In Washington, DC

The DC Courts remain committed and determined to do what we can to ensure the safety of all District residents and visitors to the Nation’s Capital.

The DC Courts have remained open throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, to include the Criminal Division within DC Superior Court. Since the outset of the pandemic, Criminal Division judges have been handling arraignments, pleas, sentencings, emergency bond review and show cause hearings.  In June 2020, the Division resumed preliminary hearings.  In November 2020, opportunities to set detained non-jury trials were extended, and in April 2021 this was expanded to include detained jury trials. The Division has also held numerous remote hearings under the Incarceration Reduction Amendment and Compassionate Release Acts.

The Criminal Division has conducted close to 9,000 arraignment and presentment hearings in new arrest matters since the outset of the public health emergency.  Arraignment court has remained fully operational, with some number of defendants presented remotely, to ensure that individuals are appointed counsel and appear before the court within 24-48 hours of their arrest.  

There are currently close to 700 individuals detained on felony charges in the District awaitng trial in cases where the Court felt if released, the individuals may pose a danger or risk to the community. 

But the number of nonjury and jury trials held is not indicative of the total number of trials scheduled.  In many instances, following the setting of a trial date, cases are dismissed, a plea agreement is reached, or a conflict arises that prevents the trial from proceeding.  In fact, according to the D.C. Sentencing Commission, "the vast majority (94%) of felony cases sentenced in Calendar Years 2010 through 2019 were disposed through guilty pleas. Jury trials have historically counted for between five and ten percent of cases. The percentage of sentences resulting from bench trials has remained at or below approximately one percent between 2010 and 2019.”  (D.C. Sentencing Commission 2019 Annual Report, p. 18).

The DC Courts will continue to partner with various District agencies and every resident across all eight Wards in an attempt to achieve justice, reduce gun violence and maintain public safety.

Chief Judge Anita Josey-Herring
DC Superior Court