Last week, while Glynn presided over a five-day murder trial, he had two cases on his docket that he said should not be postponed. One was that of Michael Cole, who was charged with six counts of child abuse and assault for allegedly beating and mutilating the genitals of the 3-year-old son of his former girlfriend. It was rescheduled for Feb. 14.
The other was the trial of Erik Green-El, accused of robbing and murdering Carroll County resident Michael Patrick Roberts in November 2001 as Roberts renovated a West Baltimore house he owned. Conveniently for Glynn, Green-El agreed to a plea deal and a 30-year prison sentence for first-degree murder.
"We're getting them to trial as fast as we can," Glynn said. "There is a lot of pressure on all parties, but the party who will suffer most by the delay is the state. I know every time I postpone a case that is ready for trial there is a chance it won't be decided by its merits.
"The longer it takes to get to trial, the better off the defendants are. That's a bad thing because that's not how the system is supposed to function."
Other metropolitan areas with high crime have come up with ways to avoid mass delays.
The Philadelphia criminal court system, which has a caseload slightly larger than Baltimore's, has 37 felony trial judges, said John Delaney, Philadelphia's deputy district attorney for the trial division. He said it is "extraordinarily rare" for courtrooms to be unavailable once both lawyers are ready to move forward with the case.
"Our court maintains a tight control on its inventory," Delaney said. "It sounds like the system you guys have, we had years ago."
In New York, there is a system of expeditors who help move along cases. If an important case is set to go before a judge who can't hear it because he is dealing with another matter, the expeditor will shop the case around to other judges, and more often than not find a slot for it that day, said Philip B. Stone, a defense lawyer who has been practicing law in New York for 26 years.
"They have a hit list of cases that are the oldest in the system," Stone said. "The direction is those cases are to go that day or, if not, the next day."
Maryland law requires that defendants must have an opportunity to be tried within six months of their arraignment unless a judge finds "good cause," but defendants often waive that right if they know it is to their advantage.
Nicole Krivda, a prosecutor who handles many narcotics cases, said that during the first week of this month, eight of her cases were postponed because no court was available. She said she is in administrative court at least three times a week.
"How do you plan for it?" she asked. "You don't. It all depends on the judge's availability."
Rosenberg, the prosecutor from the sex crimes division, said it is hard to know which cases will go any given week. Postponements can be especially difficult for him because he deals with victims of sex abuse, some of them children.
"My cases involve victims and people with children who want to go to school," Rosenberg said. "Oftentimes, your witnesses and victims are put out when they're told to come back two, three times. We can't pay these people to miss work. A good prosecutor can try to figure out when you're really going to need these people to come to court."
But he said that despite its logistical travails, Baltimore's court system is functioning at an acceptable level.
"It sounds like an awful system, but I don't think it's an awful system," Rosenberg said. "It works the best it can. You have to accept it and work with it. You have to explain it to everyone involved and ask for their patience."
The problem is a difficult one that some say cannot be solved by hiring more judges or opening more courtrooms.
"Are we going to solve everything by building bigger courthouses and bigger prisons?" asked Judge Stuart R. Berger, who until a few weeks ago was the head of the criminal docket.
Several lawyers said the problem is that the system is saddled with too many nonviolent drug cases.
Glynn said the issue is complicated because there is not enough emphasis on prioritizing cases on the docket. There are many people clogging the system who are facing minimal drug charges, he said.
"Part of the problem is someday we're going to have to make the decision: what do we care about most, murder or distribution of drugs?" Glynn said. "We need to focus energy on dangerous people rather than pathetic, street-level drug dealers."
Perry Spain's lawyer says there's no doubt that the system is barely hobbling along. But, he says, under such a crushing caseload, under such difficult logistical circumstances, even hobbling is an accomplishment.
"The system is effective because it accomplishes the goal of not shutting down," Brown said. "It's effective because it keeps moving, because there's not a meltdown. That's success here in the city."