BOISE • Idaho’s courts are feeling the strain from budget cuts, too.
On Wednesday, Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Burdick presented his State of the Judiciary report to the Idaho House and Senate. He described a judicial system struggling to keep up with an increased caseload while dealing with limited resources.
Burdick said the state has seen a 151 percent increase in mental health commitment proceedings since 2006, a jump he attributed to decreased availability of mental health treatment. Divorce and child custody cases have risen by 10 percent, and district court civil cases — including civil, medical and business disputes — have jumped by 30 percent.
“The challenge, then, is how to meet this upward trend with static resources,” Burdick said.
It’s not all bad news for Idaho’s judiciary. In the last year, Idaho’s drug and mental health courts helped 20 babies be born to newly clean and sober mothers.
“There can be no greater legacy than having these kids start out in a sober, safe home with parents who will teach them the rewards of sobriety and accountability,” Burdick said.
Burdick also mentioned the Snake River Basin Adjudication, formed in 1987 in TwinFalls to handle legal issues regarding water disputes throughout much of the state. In that time, the court has completed more than 150,000 claims, Burdick said, and has fewer than 1,900 left to adjudicate. That’s unprecedented, Burdick said.
“Under the leadership of District Judge Eric Wildman, we are now starting to draft the final decree for the Snake River Basin’s water resources,” he said.
Burdick ended his speech stressing the need to have a more attractive compensation plan for judges, saying Idaho ranks 47th in the nation for trial judges’ pay. He also emphasized his desire to keep an attractive retirement plan for judges.
“We must begin a conversation with the Legislature, the governor, and county clerks and commissioners about how best to address the pent-up demand for judges, court facilities, and new resources needed to conduct safe, timely hearings on the vital issues facing everyday Idaho citizens,” Burdick said.