St. Louis Courts Attack Caseload Crisis, Speed Criminal Trials


A mounting crisis of backlogs and delays in St. Louis’s criminal court has turned into a record-breaking year for moving along cases, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. For the first time since 1985, the courts are likely to clear more criminal cases than will be filed. Through October, prosecutors sought charges in 3,858 cases. The courts had moved along 4,178. Through October, the court had held 303 criminal trials, with 220 reaching a verdict. That’s on pace to be the highest number since 1982.

Earlier this year the St. Louis courts were in crisis. They were the slowest in the state and carrying the largest backlog of cases. The Missouri Supreme Court intervened in at least two cases demanding trial dates. The jails were full of inmates who could not make bail and sometimes waited years for trial. The city is still nowhere near the time standards set by the Missouri Supreme Court, which says courts should move at least 90 percent of felony cases within the first eight months. In October, 48 percent of pending felony cases were eight months or older. Thirty-two percent had been waiting for more than a year. “Everyone has worked harder and taken ownership because they are aware of the crisis,” said Circuit Judge Joan Moriarty, who has been operating a new docketing system.


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