Joel J. Fryer

Publication Date


Document Type

Special Contribution


The inefficiency of the criminal justice system has come to be recognized by judicial reformers as a major problem that has been exacerbated by the expansion of the rights of defendants. During the past 15 years, largely in response to U.S. Supreme Court decisions attempting to insure due process and promote fairness, trial courts have had to accommodate not only the resultant changes in criminal practice and procedure but also the increased caseload caused by defendants' assertion of constitutional rights which have been recently articulated and guaranteed. The recognition that the burden placed on courts must not be so great as to render them incapable of implementing the substantive legal reforms has led to proposals for various procedural reforms, which attempt not only to cure due-process defects and promote fairness but also to aid trial courts in managing their increased workload.

One such proposal is the omnibus hearing, the merits of which were lauded at the 1976 Georgia Bench and Bar Conference by Judge Gerald Tjoflat of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.' Characterizing the present system as "trial by ambush," Judge Tjoflat stressed the benefits of voluntary reciprocal discovery as the primary objective of omnibus hearings and urged that the procedure be adopted by state and federal courts because it "holds the key to the survival of the criminal justice system."