A fifth choose will be a part of the Montana’s eleventh District Courtroom in January 2023, bringing a further jurist to Flathead County to assist handle the almost 6,000 new and re-opened instances that movement by means of the district yearly.
Flathead County residents will choose the brand new choose throughout the November 2022 basic election, with the winner of that race taking their seat on Jan. 2 of the next yr. That particular person will be a part of sitting judges Robert Allison, Amy Eddy and Heidi Ulbricht. The fourth sitting choose, Dan Wilson, is up for re-election in 2022.
State directors have lengthy recognized Flathead County as a spot the place a further choose was wanted however earlier than this yr no bodily house was accessible to accommodate that request. The 4 district courtrooms and the courtroom’s administrative workplaces are at present situated on the third flooring of the Flathead County Justice Heart at 920 S. Major St. in Kalispell, however by January 2023 a fifth courtroom will likely be accessible on the second flooring of the constructing. That courtroom at present homes Flathead County Justice Courtroom, which is being relocated as a part of a significant re-shuffling of state and county workplaces following the county’s acquisition of the former CenturyLink building at 290 N. Major St.
When elected, the brand new choose may have no scarcity of instances to work on. Since 2017, an annual evaluation revealed by the Montana Supreme Courtroom has estimated that Flathead County is more than two judges short of what is needed to correctly handle and take into account all issues earlier than the courtroom. In 2020, there have been 5,790 cases either opened or re-opened in Flathead County, a slight dip from 2019 (5,878) however a sizeable jump from 2009 (4,457), the final time a brand new choose was added right here.
Numerous non-criminal actions make up the most important share of the district’s caseload, with 2,223 civil instances both opened or re-opened in 2020 and one other 1,186 instances involving home relations, in keeping with state information. Flathead County judges dealt with a complete of 1,021 felony instances final yr.
Together with the addition of a fifth choose, cash from the state’s basic fund may also pay for a legislation clerk and judicial assistant for the brand new choose, together with a 3rd courtroom reporter to work within the district.
In a press launch saying the information, Decide Eddy thanked native and state officers for working collectively to discover a answer to the district’s rising workload.
“The addition of a fifth choose will likely be transformative for the members of our group concerned in each the felony and civil justice techniques,” she wrote. “Flathead County is among the quickest rising areas in Montana. These further assets will enable us to deal with the rising calls for on the judicial system, develop an Grownup Drug Remedy Courtroom, and proceed to offer well timed and significant entry to the courts.”
The addition of an grownup remedy courtroom is within the “very early planning phases,” in keeping with courtroom administrator Devin Kuntz, but when it does come to fruition it may rework the way in which lots of the district’s felony instances are dealt with. Normally, drug remedy courts redirect sure defendants, usually these accused of non-violent crimes that suffer from an underlying substance dependancy, from the jail system and supply them with important authorized and medical assist. A number of jurisdictions in Montana already have adult drug treatment courts, together with in Lake County, and advocates say they lower rates of recidivism, assist clear overcrowded jails and positively reintegrate addicts into their communities.
Flathead County at present has a sort of civil drug courtroom, the Flathead Household Remedy Courtroom, which was established in 2019 due to a grant from the U.S. Division of Justice. Participation in that program is voluntary, not like felony remedy courts.