Presiding Judge Roger Prokes recently accepted two awards from the Missouri Supreme Court on behalf of the 4th Judicial Circuit, the state court system that serves Atchison, Gentry, Holt, Nodaway and Worth counties.
The distinctions mark the fourth time the 4th Circuit has received the Daniel O'Toole Award, and the seventh time it has received the Permanency Award.
The O’Toole Award is given to circuit court systems that efficiently manage and process cases. The Permanency Award honors courts for holding timely child abuse hearings so that children can be reunited with families or placed in a permanent home as soon as possible.
"Timely case processing is fundamental to an effective judicial system and to justice itself," said Missouri Chief Justice Richard B. Teitelman. "The staff and judges of the 4th Circuit should be commended for their commitment to providing timely justice.
"Timely hearings are also critical when children are removed from their homes and are to be reunited with their families or placed in other permanent homes. The nature of these cases can make it very difficult to hold timely hearings unless the officials involved exert strong and continuous efforts to do so, and those courts that achieve the highest success deserve recognition for their difficult achievement."
To qualify for the O'Toole Award, circuits must meet at least five out of 10 case-processing time standards and be within 5 percent of meeting all standards. Current guidelines call for half of all civil cases to be disposed of within 12 months, and for 90 percent of civil cases to be disposed of within 18 months.
The 4th Circuit met six out of ten state standards and was one of ten judicial circuits to receive the O’Toole Award. It was one of 19 circuits to receive the Permanency Award. There are 45 circuits in all.
Permanency Award criteria apply to six types of hearings and vary depending on the type of procedure. For example, it is recommended that courts hold a hearing to determine whether a child can safely return home within three business days from the date he or she is taken into protective custody.
Another standard recommends that courts hold permanency hearings to decide a child’s permanent placement within 12 months from the date he or she is taken into protective custody.
In deciding which courts have met award standards, circuits are placed in size classes based on their total number of hearings. Court systems must rank among the top two circuits in their its size class to qualify fore recognition.