SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Minnehaha County caseloads decrease in 2022 but violent crimes are up, according to the county’s state’s attorney.
“We had 10,331 new cases opened in our office last year,” county state’s attorney Daniel Haggar said at the April 25 Minnehaha County Commissioners meeting.
Although it’s good news the total caseload was lower than in 2021, the decrease is mainly in lower-level crimes, Haggar said.
More serious crimes have increased.
Felonies now make up 34% of the caseload, Haggar said. That’s an increase of 3% from the prior year and a 9% increase over a five-year period.
Cases that have increased include assaults on law enforcement, first-degree burglary, child abuse, felony assault and aggravated assault, Haggar said.
Child abuse cases in the class 5 level that include very young children increased by 43%. Aggravated assault cases increased by 20% from 873 to 1,047.
The office had 44 jury trial cases.
Minnehaha County is part of the 2nd Circuit Judicial District, so its cases are part of the overall 2nd Circuit caseload.
The caseload in the 2nd Judicial Circuit has 34% of the caseload for all seven judicial districts, Judge Robin Houwman said at the April 25 county board meeting. Houwman presented figures from the 2022 fiscal year.
Houwman said the caseload is not unexpected. “Interestingly we have 25% of the resources to manage that caseload from the unified judicial system,” Houwman said.
The 2nd circuit had 63,388 cases. The circuit court has 85,000 hearings a year.
A judge in South Dakota will preside over 2,900 a year on average, Houwman said.
The 2nd Circuit average is 3,900, she said.
“We do have a substantial caseload…,” Houwman said.
The population is growing and that will increase the cases in the district, Houwman said.
Houwman said there is a lot of congestion in the courts. Some judges are scheduling cases into August and September because schedules are full.
A new magistrate judge that will start in July will help with the caseload per judge, Houwman said.
Houwman noted some trends to date including a 12% increase so far in juvenile cases. So far, this year, divorce cases are up 25%.
“Our criminal cases are down between 5% and 10%,” Houwman said. “Those tend to increase once it gets nicer. We expect those numbers to come back up.”
The 2nd Circuit averages 50 jury trials a year. “A few years that was averaging at 90,” Houwman said. “We’re not sure exactly what has led to us having fewer jury trials.”
Most of the jury trials that are set end up settling a day or two before the trial starts, she said.