There are several elements to taking a defendant's plea - the defense attorney tells the judge what the negotiated agreement with the State entails, the judge asks a series of questions of the defendant, and once they're satisfied that the defendant is freely and voluntarily entering his/her plea, the judge imposes the sentence.
An assembly line plea is when multiple defendants are lined up in front of the judge and plead guilty or no contest to the charges against them. The judge asks the required questions once (e.g., "How far did you go in school?" "Where were you born?" "Is this your signature on the plea form?" etc.) and then the defendants answer one after another. Generally, one-person plea takes approximately 5 minutes (sometimes more, sometimes less) to conduct. I've seen courtrooms where as many as 7 defendants are lined up for 45 minutes for their plea. And then they wait an additional 30-60 minutes (or more) for their paperwork.
There are several reasons why I dislike this practice.
- It treats people as if they're a number - and not worthy of the judge's one-on-one attention: http://tinyurl.com/dxj532.
- It increases the risk of clerical errors because the clerk receives several files for processing at the same time.
- Ditto with having people line up to get fingerprints taken after their plea.
Additionally, too many judges are like this guy when taking a plea (whether of an assembly-line or one-on-one nature): http://tinyurl.com/5na67o. Please take a moment to consider how the defendant feels and SLOW DOWN!