Measures taken after March 2020 to stem the spread of COVID-19 included shutdowns of many court operations, including jury trials. Unfortunately, crime continued unabated.
As a result, the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office confronted a record 5,745 pending cases by the end of May 2021. If the office were to continue disposing of cases at the same rate as it has in years immediately preceding the pandemic, it would take seven years just to clear the backlog and return the number of pending cases to pre-pandemic levels.
However, Solicitor Duffie Stone has a plan to reduce the backlog much faster and to provide monthly updates like this one to track our progress.
In August 2021, the growth in the number of pending cases continued to decelerate, to 5,857. We cleared 161 cases for the month, despite a recurrence of COVID-related problems. An outbreak among detainees in the Beaufort County Detention Center and within the Public Defender’s Office forced the term to be reduced from five days to two. Additionally, a jury trial scheduled for the next week was continued when a defendant fell ill. We also have four vacant attorney positions, which we anticipate will be filled in early November.
This chart shows the most recent performance, with total cases shown in the top line in blue, new cases in red and the number of closed or “disposed” cases in yellow.
For historical context, this chart shows our pre-pandemic reduction in overall pending cases …
… and this chart demonstrates the emergence of the backlog during the pandemic, with numbers from January 2020 through January 2021.