More on the Warrants

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

I left a voice mail for the judge in this case — who, my mistake, happens to be a woman. I haven’t heard back from her yet.

Georgia’s state court system also has a separate “warrant office,” which is where the woman at the general number directed me when I explained what I was looking for. But the warrant office is apparently not accepting calls right now. I get about forty rings, then a message saying that….they’re not accepting calls.

A commenter at the Volokh site says that nearby Dekalb County uses an electronic warrant system, where police upload the warrant to a database, then a judge reads and signs it online.

If that’s true, it explains the identical signatures, and at least takes the forgery issue off the table. But it also raises other concerns. It means there’s no face-to-face between the judge and the LEO asking for the warrant. Efficiency and automation are great, but not if they foster a lack of scrutiny and encourage lapses in judicial oversight. An application for a no-knock based solely on a CI buy should have been a red flag for this judge (if it’s common in Atlanta for no-knocks to be issued with such spare evidence, that’s a much larger problem). For whatever reason, this one got by her.

There’s already a problem with judges signing off on warrants without much scrutiny. If warrant approval has been reduced to nothing more than a daily task of logging on, browsing affidavits, and clicking a “signature” box, you can see how an important, entrusted responsibility could be reduced to something troublingly more mundane.

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