PARIS — Felony crimes committed in Oxford County will be litigated by region under the new, more efficient court system starting July 1, officials said Monday.

A regional system is already in place for misdemeanors but not felonies, which have been handled in Oxford County Superior Court in Paris.

Known as the Unified Criminal Docket, the new system combines Superior and District court cases in one court. Beginning Wednesday, new crimes committed in central Oxford County will be heard at the Oxford County courthouse in Paris, those in northern Oxford County will be heard in 11th District Court in Rumford, and felony crimes in southern Oxford County will be heard in Bridgton District Court. 

According to Rick Record, director of court operations, the switch is intended to bring a quicker resolution to cases. 

“Under the old system, defendants could be called to court multiple times without any progress in their case,” Record said. 

Current felony cases typically are on a four-month track. Though lawyers will be able to file motions to continue cases, the new system could cut that time in half, according to several lawyers. 

Some current practices will remain. After an arrest on a felony charge, a defendant will be transported to the Oxford County Jail in Paris and booked. If bail isn’t met, an appearance before a district court judge in Paris will be scheduled to set bail conditions. 

From there, the system changes. At the arraignment, the case will be set on a track with set scheduled dates for hearings on dispositions, motions and, if necessary, trial. The proceedings will be held at the closest regional courthouse except for trials, which will be transferred back to South Paris. 

The same system has run successfully in Cumberland and Penobscot counties, cutting down travel time, court costs and creating other efficiencies, Record said. 

Mexico-based attorney Paul Dumas Jr. said he still had many questions concerning the change but said it was “a step in the right direction” because it would save clients in the Rumford area the hassle and cost of transportation, as well as the time associated with traveling 45 minutes to and from Paris. 

Rumford Police Chief Stacy Carter said it’s too early to know what the changes will bring, but he liked the idea in principle because it would mean less travel time to issue subpoenas, summonses and other paperwork. 

Oxford County Assistant District Attorney Joseph O’Connor said he didn’t see a pressing need for the system in Oxford County because prosecutors were up to date on most pending cases. 

O’Connor also expressed caution about mixing defendants accused of a misdemeanor and those of a felony, but said he was reserving judgment until he sees how it worked. 

“The old system was decent. Many of our cases are from 2015, no more than months old,” O’Connor said. 

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PARIS — Under the new court system for Oxford County: 

* Criminal defendants who reside in towns north of and including Canton, Peru, Bethel and Gilead, and Milton Township will report to Rumford District Court. 

* Criminal defendants who reside south of and including Stow, Lovell and Sweden will report to Bridgton District Court.

* Oxford County Superior Court will handle criminal cases in all other towns.


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