Approximately 300,000 court cases per year is a lot, even in a county with 1.1 million residents. That’s the average workload for our busy General District Court. More residents have contact with the General District Court than our two other courts, the Circuit Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
The range of cases handled by the General District Court includes landlord/tenant disputes, traffic summons, protective orders, personal injury claims, violations of local ordinances and criminal misdemeanors, among others that fall under one of three divisions:
There is also a Court Services Unit that provides language interpreters, supervises release options for defendants pending their trial and probation services after conviction.
So how do 300,000 cases get handled in one year? Led by Chief Judge Michael J. Cassidy, 10 judges serve in the court. They are elected by the General Assembly for six-year terms. The General District Court does not conduct jury trials; all cases are heard by a judge.
The judges also hear cases in three other courthouses in the City of Fairfax and towns of Vienna and Herndon.
There are more than 140 employees supporting the court, including deputy clerks, paraprofessionals, probation officers and administrative staff. Volunteers help in many positions, including a rotating group of George Mason University students that assist judges with judgment reviews and miscellaneous administrative case processing duties.
In addition to the volume of cases, one of the biggest challenges facing the court’s large staff is training. “Laws are always changing and processes in place become more and more detailed,” explained Barr.
The General District Court is also involved in two new initiatives to assist our residents in need:
- The Veterans Treatment Docket, an intensive court-supervised diversion program for military recently had its first graduation.
- The Diversion First program, which offers alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness or developmental disabilities who come into contact with the criminal justice system for low level offenses.