COVID and Milwaukee County Courts; the pandemic creates a backlog of cases

COVID-19 and the pandemic are affecting all parts of society, including the Milwaukee County justice system. As jury trials resumed last summer, courts face a backlog of cases – particularly the criminal variety.

“COVID is a problem. I don’t need to dwell on my situation from last week,” Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge David Borowski said.

At least one homicide trial has been postponed until next week due to positive COVID cases.

Milwaukee County Courthouse

Chief Justice Mary Triggiano told FOX6 News the court is not keeping track of what caused a case to adjourn. But of 12 jury trials last week, only one has taken place. Others could have been resolved, dismissed or adjourned for reasons other than COVID-19.

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Triggiano said this week is better. Of 12 jury trials, four began on Monday, two on Tuesday and a few more are scheduled for Wednesday. However, COVID-19 continues to block the system.

“While our backlog is large because we do a lot of cases in Milwaukee, there is always room to clear it if we do creative things with the planning and bring in more resources,” the Chief Justice said. .

This includes opening new courts with reserve judges to reduce the backlog. But this process is currently hampered by a lack of staff.

Staffing is also an issue at the Milwaukee County Jail – as the number of people in custody is over 900. More than 200 of them are COVID positive.

Milwaukee County Jail

“I handle double the number of cases I was two years ago,” said Allison Ritter, Milwaukee criminal defense attorney.

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Ritter said she knew the judges, the district attorney’s office and others were doing their best with the hand inflicted on them. But she said the numbers are not sustainable.

“This schedule isn’t going to empty itself. It won’t happen. We need a plumber. Because it’s stuck,” Ritter said.

Ritter said the district attorney’s office was the only entity that could help.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said: “When an adjournment is necessary in a trial, another assistant district attorney is ready to make another, and that has proven to be the case until present in 2022. “

But there is always the possibility that something, like an illness, will cause a trial to be postponed.

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