Minnehaha County courts avoid caseload crunch with special session

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — It’s the first day back to work for many state workers across South Dakota. That long, five-day holiday weekend posed some challenges for courthouses that were bracing for a backlog of cases. But a special court session earlier this week in Minnehaha County helped cut the caseload by about half.

The Minnehaha County Courthouse is returning to normal operations after being closed since 5 p.m. Friday. The long layoff meant people arrested over the weekend could have waited five-days behind bars before their first court appearance. But on Monday afternoon, Magistrate Judge Eric Johnson presided over a special session to review dozens of cases.

“I’m sure it was helpful for a lot of people who were in jail and were released before the Christmas holidays so they could spend that time with their family and if they were folks who weren’t flight risks or dangerous to the community,” Second Judicial Circuit Magistrate Judge Eric Johnson said.

Around 60 people appeared before Judge Johnson on Monday. Those are sixty fewer cases the courts would have had to handle during hearings on Thursday.

“That would have been 125-130 had we not done the session on Monday,” Johnson said.

Holding a hearing on the day that the courthouse was closed made the proceedings go more smoothly than on a regular day.

“Usually, we have so much hustle and bustle going on it the courthouse that was the only courtroom that we had going on, so we were able to focus our attention solely on what was happening in initial appearance court that afternoon, so that was a good thing,” Johnson said.

While Thursday’s caseload was still busy, Johnson compares it to a typical Monday following a two-day weekend, and not the heavy buildup from a five-day weekend.

Judge Johnson does not expect a courtroom crunch during the New Year’s Day holiday next week, since Monday will be a regular work day at the courthouse.

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