SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

April 9, 2014

Our view: Time to consider Peabody Court shift

(Continued)

Yet, it is a task worth pursuing. A full consideration of the bill could answer several questions:

If the move is based at least partially on improving Peabody’s economic fortunes, as Speliotis said, people in both towns need to see some numbers to back up the theory. How much growth could Peabody’s business community expect to see with an influx of court cases? How much would Salem lose?

How much will it cost taxpayers? One expects the Peabody court would need to add more staffers to handle the increase in cases. Would those workers come over from Salem, or would they be new hires? Given state government’s fondness for growing the payroll, and state lawmakers’ affinity for using the court system as a landing spot for patronage hires, it’s safe to assume the court budget would increase.

Speliotis noted that the change would make it easier for Danvers police to get to court appearances. (It’s a 4-mile trip from the Danvers police station to the Salem courthouse. A Danvers to Peabody trip is 2.5 miles.) Does the same go for plaintiffs, defendants and witnesses? The Salem courts are located in a transportation hub, a five-minute walk from the train and bus depot.

Will Middleton be forced to move its cases? James DiGianvittorio said his department wants to continue working with Salem, where he said there is a “comfort factor.”

The department does not have a full-time prosecutor and relies more heavily on the Salem court staff. The relationship has worked for the department. “It’s just a fact that we are established there,” DiGianvittorio said.

Supporters of the switch point to a 1995 proposal by the chief justice for the administration and management of the trial court, who recommended the change. Given the way legislators fight over changing court jurisdictions in their districts, it’s no wonder we’ve gone 20 years without serious consideration of a change.

That’s too long. The residents of the North Shore deserve a full debate on the issue, and soon.

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