- Associated Press - Monday, February 1, 2021

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho’s judicial system faces a backlog of thousands of cases because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the chief justice of the state’s highest court said.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Bevan described the situation in his State of the Judiciary Address to the Idaho House and Senate last week, Idaho Press reported.

“The number of pending criminal cases has increased by 22% since January a year ago, and there are currently over 40,000 cases awaiting disposition,” Bevan told the lawmakers.

Some court business can only occur in person, which has caused delays in some proceedings including jury trials, he said.

“We are not only working to recognize the scope of what faces us, we are conscientiously developing strategies to address this backlog.”

The attempts to address the delays include using both senior and active judges to reduce the number of pending cases and trials.

Technology upgrades are helping judges and courts consider new options, including holding jury trials “using locations much different than a traditional courthouse,” Bevan said.

The Legislature in recent years invested in a major upgrade and modernization of the court’s computer system, which has helped the judiciary continue operating.

Bevan highlighted a new online system allowing residents to file for civil protection orders without having to visit courthouses.

Requests for two additional magistrate judges plus a court reporter are expected to be included in the judicial branch’s forthcoming budget request.

Bevan‘s address was delivered remotely from the Idaho Supreme Court chamber and broadcast to lawmakers because of the pandemic.

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