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Southwestern Oregon county legal players want another judge

January 15, 2019

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Judges and lawyers in a southwestern Oregon county are asking for at least one more judge to help ease the growing demand on the area’s court system.

Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters has asked lawmakers for an additional $4.5 million to fund an additional 14 judges with support staff across the state, including one new judge for Jackson County, the Mail Tribune recently reported .

The Jackson County Circuit Court has nine judges — the same number it has had for 15 years, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Tim Gerking said.

“With the expanded population and the ever-increasing need for court services, we are really running at a breaking point in terms of the need for at least one additional judge,” Gerking said.

The Jackson County court handles the third-highest volume of cases across Oregon, but it ranks sixth for its number of judges, according to state court data.

The court handled about 26,000 new cases in 2018, nearly 2,900 per judge, according to the data.

“It’s time that the Legislature took a careful look at our needs down here in Jackson County,” Gerking said.

The court’s need is greatest in cases involving children, Gerking said.

Federal rules state that courts should resolve child dependency cases in 90 days, but the Jackson County court hits that target about 62 percent of the time, according to the data.

“Kids are just left in foster care for longer periods of time,” Gerking said.

It has become increasingly difficult for the court to hit federal targets because it lacks the capacity to hear all the cases on time, Judge Lisa Greif said.

“We can’t keep up,” Greif said.

Chief Justice Walters is also advocating for $9.7 million to boost staffing levels in courts.

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Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/

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