Court system back logged due to COVID-19

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Local court systems are experiencing a significant backlog of cases because of the coronavirus, but Wednesday there was a sign of progress.

The first jury pool selection since the shutdown began Wednesday for the Warren County courthouse.

Until then, the Warren County courthouse had not been able to convene a jury because of COVID-19 closures and social distancing guidelines.

Now, the process being handled a little differently.

It’s now occurring in waves of three smaller groups of socially distanced potential jurors, rather than one large group.

Finding suitable jurors has been a struggle as well, according to Warren Circuit Court Judge Steve Wilson.

“Usually we will send out 300 summonses and we’ll get back 125, 130, the last time we sent out 375; we got 80 that came back as qualified, not exempted in some way or another,” said Wilson.

Cases are also back logged in the court system causing a whole separate issue.

“It’s very difficult because, while the courts are starting to open up by way of the Supreme Court order, we are having a tremendous bottle-neck in the clerk’s office that’s only working half-staff,” said Wilson.

Everyone has a right to a fair and speedy trial but with closures, some are having to wait a bit longer than anticipated.

Because of this, criminal cases must come first, and civil cases are being postponed into next year.

Some victims of crime are suffering due to these postponements, according to Commonwealth Attorney Chris Cohron.

“It’s been very frustrating to say the least as we have continued to have delays through the pandemic. We’ve done our best to try to keep victims updated through our law enforcement agencies as well as my office and our victim advocates and the groups that assist our victim advocates. But, at the end of the day, until you can truly get resolution through the court system, sometimes in these cases, these wounds aren’t even allowed to begin to heal,” said Cohron.

Wilson says the backlog could impact the court system into 2023.