With a 158% increase in felony cases since 2010, the court system for Williams County is being over run with paper work.
And it's not likely to get better soon.
Gary Brode went to Williston to find out how the court is coping with the growing case load and what the plans are to fix the problem.
Going to court in Williams County? Take a number! To say the courts cases are backlogged would not quite paint the picture - but maybe this will....
(Carolyn Probst, Trial Court Administrator, Northwest Judicial System) "They can receive up to a foot of paperwork per day...."
Paperwork of criminal cases being processed each day. That's because the courts are handling a major increase in crime and there just are not enough workers or finances to keep up. From 2011 to 2012 Williams County has seen a 66% increase where police action was required. Inside of that number, traffic citations have jumped 34% including a 23% increase in D.U.I.'s. These numbers led to an 11% increase in inmates booked.
(Carolyn Probst, Trial Court Administrator, Northwest Judicial System) "It's difficult. The clerks definitely deal with a lot of stress. A lot of frustrated people that come in, want their information and want it now. Attorney's are frustrated but they have been very supportive. People understand but it still takes its toll."
That toll caused a few clerks to quit and with the stacks of paperwork piling up each day, Probst and the Northwest Judicial System can use all the help they can get. Currently in the process of asking for three more staff members and two more judges - assistance can not come soon enough. But it's not just the courts that are struggling to keep up with all of the arrests.
(Sheriff Scott Busching, Williams County) "The longer you hold an inmate that's awaiting trial, the more frustrated they become. So they become a little bit more difficult to hold."
(Gary Brode, KX Reporter) "Because of the increase in crime over the last few years, an empty courtroom such as this one, is an unfamiliar site in Williams County."
(Carolyn Probst, Trial Court Administrator, Northwest Judicial System) "It's just backlogged to the point where we're out all the way to the end of the year already in scheduling."
(Sheriff Scott Busching, Williams County) "Quite frankly there has been some plea deals made simply because we don't have space to hold folks. Which normally wouldn't have been made... Bail has been set at lower amounts. Some people are being released on promises to appear, where we normally wouldn't do that simply because we don't have to room for some of the lesser crimes."
The sheriff thinks those "lesser crimes" end up in court more frequently than in the past as people try to avoid getting "points" against their drivers license.
Meanwhile, in the clerk's office, there's now a designated "alone time" for the staff - the office is closed to the public to allow workers to dig in to the stacks of paperwork.
There's also a surrogate judge coming in from Watford City to help out.
Short term fixes to a problem that appears to be long term.
In Williston, Gary Brode, KX News.
Each of the two judges in Williston carry twice the case load of any other judge in the state. Probst believes they will catch up with two more clerks.