WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Sedgwick County Courthouse is experiencing a large backlog of court cases as officials work to process thousands of cases that were put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.
The right to a speedy trial has become an issue all over the country as a result of the pandemic.
“I’m powerless right now,” said Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett. “Courts across the country are powerless to afford that particular right.”
“The concern is we’re going to have to figure out a way to cram a year’s worth of work into five or six months,” said Bennett.
Bench trials, sentencings, family court hearings, and similar cases can still take place, but constitutionally, jury trials have to be in-person. The problem continues because, for the foreseeable future, jury trials won’t be able to happen.
Bennett said the number of people involved in a criminal case, especially a homicide case, would be way too many to safely social distance and take precautions to protect the health of everyone present.
There is also a large backup for traffic court, as well.
Judge Rodger Woods, 18th Judicial District Court, said nearly 5,000 cases were scheduled during the time the courthouse was closed because of the coronavirus.
“It’s been down a little bit,” said Woods. “But those cases need to be resolved.”
Woods said on average, traffic court usually handles 150 cases per day.
To try to fill the backlog gap, the county is setting up stations outside of the courthouse starting Monday, June 15.
The stations will be available Monday, Tuesday, and Friday until the end of July from 8:30 a.m – 4:00 p.m.
“Some of this is going to be set up outside so we can avoid bottlenecks coming through the courthouse,” said Woods.
People will be able to schedule new court dates, apply for diversion, or ask for assistance with their case.
Masks will be provided if needed and sneeze guards will be put in place to protect county employees. Extra cleaning will be performed as a precaution, as well.
“This will be a time where people will be able to come at their own convenience to select another date or just get the case resolved,” said Woods. “The effort there is to provide plenty of times for people to come in that won’t be crowded.”
For more information about Sedgwick County courts and more, click here.