County Plan Will Tackle Courts Backlog
Using state ARPA funds to hire nearly 40 new staff in Sheriff's Office, DA's Office and Circuit Court.
In March, Gov. Tony Evers provided Milwaukee County with approximately $15 million to expand court operations to work through the massive backlog of criminal court cases that piled up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding came out of the state’s $2.5 billion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation from the federal government.
In July, the Milwaukee County Board approved a slew of new positions to begin expanding court operations and tackle the court backlog. This included nine new bailiffs, nearly 20 new positions in the District Attorney’s Office and 12 new positions in the Office of the Clerk of Court.
The project is intended to run from 2022 through June 2024. The District Attorney’s Office has been allocated approximately $5.6 million; the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office approximately $1.7 million.
District Attorney John Chisholm told the Milwaukee County Board’s Personnel Committee in July that the new positions “would allow us to start getting back to what I would just describe as equilibrium.” He added: “Equilibrium being the challenging state that we were in in 2019. But a manageable challenge at that point in time.”
In January, according to an April report from the Office of Strategy, Budget and Performance, courts in Milwaukee faced a backlog of “approximately 2,600 misdemeanors, 1,700 felonies and 925 criminal traffic cases.”
Denita Ball. the Deputy Chief of the Sheriff’s Department (she recently won the election to become the new Sheriff) told supervisors back then that the plan is to create three felony courts, one domestic violence court and one misdemeanor court. The felony and domestic violence courts would each have two bailiffs and the misdemeanor court would have one.
In March, when the state allocation was first announced, Chief Judge Mary Triggiano said “The governor’s decision to fund our extended and expanded court operations and mental health treatment court is so critical and timely.”
She explained that throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 exposure and illness greatly slowed down court proceedings. Increased numbers of retirements and resignations also impacted the court system as it did for many other public and private employers.
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