Support sought for additional district judge

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BONNERS FERRY — The Boundary County Board of Commissioners met in a special session on Monday, Dec. 30, with District Court Judge Barbara Buchanan and Administrative District Judge Rich Christensen, to discuss the proposal of asking the legislature to fund a new district judge.

The proposed judge would be chambered in Bonner County, and would serve in Bonner, Boundary and Kootenai counties.

Christensen stated that the need for another judge has been fueled by the explosion in growth in all three counties. The growth rate — according to a chart that he provided — from 2000 to 2018, was 21 percent in both Bonner and Boundary counties, and 48 percent in Kootenai County.

“I think we have the statistics to prove it now,” said Christensen. “We have been extremely busy.”

With the population growth comes a higher caseload for the judges, which in turn affects things such as longer wait times to get resolutions, and longer times spent in jail.

“In the first district, our average caseload per judge — there are six of us now — was 447 cases. It was the highest in the state,” said Christensen. “It is still down from 2018, but it is still far above the rest of the state and the statewide average.”

With the support of Kootenai County already in place, the judges sought to get a letter of support from the Boundary County Commissioners.

“This affects longer time to resolutions, it affects victims when their case gets continued down the road because of the heavy caseload that we have,” said Christensen. “It is important for justice that we have this.”

The commissioners agreed to support the proposal and a letter will be submitted to the Supreme Court. If the position is approved, the new judge will most likely still be a year out.

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