One of the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the Carlton County court system is the backlog of cases, said Deputy County Attorney Jeffery Boucher.

Boucher asked the Carlton County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Oct. 12, to approve the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds to hire an assistant county attorney for two years to help move cases along.

“The Minnesota Judicial Branch has mandated that all court districts address their backlog,” he said. “We have come out at the back of this and the judicial branch is telling us we need to run at 120% efficiency.”

The county had a monthly average of 268 cases in March 2020, but the August 2021 average is at 460.

“Believe it or not, crime did not stop when courts shut down,” Boucher said.

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There was a 20% increase during the pandemic, and due to the slowdown in the courts active cases piled up.

Boucher said the office is currently working as efficiently as possible, but they have gotten to the point where just being more efficient is not going to do the trick.

The board was concerned that a temporary position might not entice an attorney, but Boucher said they are looking to attract someone who is early in their career.

“It should be long enough to provide an enticing career prospect for what is likely going to be a young attorney,” he said.

This type of hire would allow for the more experienced attorneys to focus and prepare for higher-profile cases, like murder trials.

The board approved the request. Officials could not provide the exact cost of the additional position until the hiring process is complete, Boucher said.

The next step is to start the hiring process.