BOISE — In 2020 and 2021, Idaho courts faced challenges “unprecedented in a century,” state Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Bevan told lawmakers in his speech. annual report on the state of the judiciary.
Nonetheless, he said, “because of the dedication of so many dedicated people, the rule of law remains alive and well in Idaho. … The courts remained open to anyone who wished to file or respond to a claim. I am therefore extremely proud of the way our courts have responded to the crisis.
The Chief Justice delivers an annual message to the Idaho House and Senate about the state’s judicial branch and its needs that the Idaho Supreme Court calls “a regular point of contact between the two branches of government “. The House and Senate greeted the judge with applause and praise after his formal speeches last week, which included calls for continued investment in technology and staff as Idaho courts move forward in a changed environment. .
In 2021, Bevan said, state court judges in Idaho held almost as many hearings as they did in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 300,000, “and conducted them safely. security. The only activities that were completely halted for parts of the year were jury trials and grand jury proceedings. These gatherings represent our highest risk activities for COVID-19, with large groups of people gathered for days or weeks at a time in small spaces. »
Bevan said the courts expect it will take “at least two years” to fully address the effects of the pandemic, with a “significantly higher number of unresolved cases compared to before COVID-19 n ‘reach this state’.
Technology has offered solutions, he said, and continues to do so. “We fully expect that the benefits of technology and the time savings it provides will continue to be a silver lining in the otherwise dark cloud of the pandemic,” he said.
To that end, the courts will ask to spend federal coronavirus relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act on improving technology and cybersecurity, he said. Bevan also noted other budget issues, including the need to spend more on court fees for family court services, treatment courts, and more.
As the courts face increasingly complex work, he also proposes adding a deputy trial court administrator in each judicial district; the addition of an additional 4th District judge to be chambered in Elmore County; and the addition of two magistrates in Ada County. Last year, lawmakers approved his request for new judges in Canyon County, amid a growing caseload.
Bevan also focused on recommendations from the Idaho Behavioral Health Council to address unmet mental and behavioral health needs in the state, and said the courts are already working on them. They include a bill proposed this year to improve Idaho’s civil engagement laws, which Bevan called “just a start.”
“This topic is significant for the justice system,” he said, aiming to engage with people with behavioral health issues earlier, before any involvement in the justice system. The Behavioral Health Council is an initiative bringing together the three branches of Idaho state government. “I can pledge the court’s continued support for our partnership,” Bevan told lawmakers.
“We are living in extraordinary times,” the chief justice said. “But together, we have seen Idaho and its people go through such times before. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “You cannot escape responsibility for tomorrow by avoiding it today. I have faith and confidence that we will continue to meet the demands of our tomorrows as we accept the challenges that await us today – just like those that came before us. Thank you so much for joining us to make this happen.