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Courts ask Mecklenburg commissioners for more funding to help reduce a backlog of cases

Cotham
Mecklenburg County
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Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham is seen in a recent meeting.

Local court officials are asking Mecklenburg County for a $1.59 million increase in next year’s budget.

Part of the money would go toward three new court coordinator positions. Casey Calloway, the trial court administrator for North Carolina's 26th Judicial District, told county commissioners this week that cutting down on a backlog of cases is a focus — and that it was a problem even before the pandemic in criminal district court cases.

“That backlog was over 48,00 cases,” Calloway said. “That backlog has now ballooned to over 107,000 cases. That is nearly a 117.2% increase.”

While the judicial system is run by the state, individual counties are responsible for funding courthouses and related facilities. At least three commissioners expressed support for the request. (You can watch the full meeting here.)

“I think sometimes a short term increase can produce savings or a return on investment long term because we’ll be gaining efficiency,” Commissioner Mark Jerrell said.

Commissioner Pat Cotham wants the state to do more as well.

“We’re mad,” Cotham said. “At least I’m mad. I’m sick of the state not doing their job. I mean, we give, I think it’s like $420 million, that the state should be doing for the schools and for the court system and that’s their job but we’re doing it.”

Commissioner Elaine Powell also called for more state funding.

“It is maddening that state government is not funding at the level we need,” she said. “But in the meantime, we can’t just sit on our hands. We’ve got to do something.”

The pending budget request is in addition to the $6.4 million Mecklenburg currently pays for the court system. Commission Chair George Dunlap said it represents approximately a 25% increase.

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Woody is a Charlotte native who came to WFAE from the world of NASCAR where he was host of NASCAR Today for MRN Radio as well as a pit reporter, turn announcer and host of the NASCAR Live pre race show for Cup Series races. Before that, he was a news anchor at WBT radio in Charlotte, a traffic reporter, editor of The Charlotte Observer’s University City Magazine, News/Sports Director at WEGO-AM in Concord and a Swiss Army knife in local cable television. His first job after graduating from Appalachian State University was news reporter at The Daily Independent in Kannapolis. Along the way he’s covered everything from murder trials and a national political convention to high school sports and minor league baseball.