(The Center Square) — The backlog of cases facing courts across Georgia “could take years to resolve,” Supreme Court of Georgia Chief Justice Michael P. Boggs said during his “State of the Judiciary” address on Wednesday.
Boggs pointed to Fulton County, where he said there are more than 4,000 “pending indicted felony cases.”
“And it’s critical to note that the number of felony criminal cases that were indicted during COVID is substantially lower than the number of people arrested for felonies during that same period,” Boggs said in his prepared remarks, adding that Fulton County has nearly 14,000 “unindicted felony cases.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Brian Kemp allocated $96 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for state courts and prosecutors and $14 million for public defenders to address “the backlogs of serious violent felony cases,” Boggs said.
“After seeing a 36.3 percent increase in serious violent felony cases between 2019 and 2021, circuits receiving ARPA grants reported a nearly 12 percent decrease in these pending cases between the end of 2021 and August 2022,” Boggs said. “A similar decrease was seen among all felony cases and all cases in general.”
Additionally, the number of jury trials is “also recovering” after a 75% drop in felony jury trials between 2019 and 2020. Courts saw felony jury trials increase by 182% by the end of 2021 and by nearly 14% over the first eight months of 2022.
“There is still a long way to go, but our trial court judges are demonstrating incredible leadership in tackling this problem,” Boggs said.
“While the cost of building up our legal workforce requires financial investment, it may ultimately cost less than allowing defendants to sit in jail,” Boggs said.
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor
The State of the Judiciary begins at the 1:00:00 mark.