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Support for a second judge: Marquette County Board requests legislation to reinstate position

MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Board of Commissioners has reaffirmed its support of reinstating a second judge to the 25th Circuit Court as the county faces an increasing felony case load.

The board passed a resolution during its Tuesday night meeting requesting legislation to restore a second judge position to the circuit court, as legislation passed in 2011 reduced the number of Marquette County circuit court judges from two to one, with the move taking effect through attrition on Dec. 31, 2016.

A second circuit court judge is needed, the resolution states, due to a 60% increase in felony cases — and the ensuing backlog — since the loss of the second circuit court judge position.

The board had previously passed a similar resolution in November 2019, stating felonies increased almost 40% since the loss of the second circuit court judge position.

Charity Mason, who serves as director of court operations/magistrate for Marquette County, told the board about the challenges faced by the court system.

“In addition to the strains of the pandemic, our criminal case load has continued increasing to historic highs. The felony case load is actually double what it was when the decision was made at the state level to eliminate a judge in Marquette County,” Mason told the board. “Felony cases are one of the most labor-intensive aspects of our court operations. From beginning to end, from clerk to judge, felonies are just, quite frankly, a lot of work. With that in mind, I would recommend that the board reaffirm the resolution to support reinstatement of a judgeship.”

Scott Jennings, chair of the Marquette County Law Enforcement Administrators Association and chief of the Chocolay Township Police Department, described the impact of the backlog of cases on the criminal justice system and the community.

“A primary reason for this increase in time is not only the increased complexity of the cases, but also the backup of cases pending trial in the 25th Circuit Court,” Jennings wrote. “As these cases continue to lag, we’re seeing defendants committing new offenses while out on bond, leading to even further delays in completing the cases. This is directly impacting not only our agencies, but the victims and citizens of Marquette County that we serve and protect.”

Katie Segula can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is ksegula@miningjournal.net.

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