600 cases at Butte County Superior Court backlogged due to the pandemic

Families, victims and suspects are waiting on trials that have been put on hold due to the pandemic.

Posted: Jun 25, 2021 7:08 PM
Updated: Jun 30, 2021 8:50 AM

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - Hundreds of cases are on hold due to the backlog caused by the pandemic. 

Jurors have been impacted as well.

"It was a long process because they are so backlogged and they were doing COVID and they were limited to how many people they can have in a room at a time,” said Butte County resident Rhonda Davidson. “The process took twice as long as well for them to get their jurors.

"It has been an extraordinarily challenging year with the COVID because it has made it very difficult to get cases out and it made it difficult to get cases resolved," said District Attorney for Butte County Mike Ramsey.

Ramsey said right now there are 600 cases pending, 18 of which are murder cases.

"A lot of witnesses that are saying why do you keep subpoenaing me,” said Ramsey. “They get frustrated and pretty soon they say lose my address, lose my phone."

Most COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted at the Butte County Superior Court but people still have to put on their masks when inside of the building. Ramsey and a public defender shared about the challenges they face when jurors have to mask up.

"This is our job, to read people and make our arguments and advocate for people and it is really tough when you take the mouth and nose away,” said Executive Public Defense Attorney, Philip Heithecker.

"Trying to figure the reaction of a masked juror and what they are saying, oh yeah I can be fair and impartial while body language and facial expressions mean much more than, oh yeah I can be fair and impartial,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey shared how they will catch up.

"Criminal cases go first,” said Ramsey. “They take priority over any civil case. So your civil cases are anyone who is over there trying to see justice on automobile accident, a consumer case or any of the normal civil cases."

Heithecker said, some people who are in jail have been waiting for their trial for over a year and have no choice but to keep waiting.

Ramsey said he is hoping the court system will be mostly caught up by the beginning of next year.

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