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La Crosse County courts catching up on trials, after COVID

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Two years of a pandemic has led to some backlogs in society, including courtroom business.  That’s true in La Crosse County, where some major cases from two or three years ago still have not gone to trial yet. 

Deputy district attorney Jessica Skemp told the county judiciary committee this week that because trials were on hold for many months, judges and lawyers are now playing catch-up.

“Sometimes, there’s as many as three courts trying cases at once,” Skemp said, noting that there were two trials at the same time on Wednesday, both normally handled by the same prosecutor.    

Skemp says the DA’s office is down about 25 per cent from the number of prosecutors it should have under state guidelines.  Those attorneys are paid by the state, not the county.      

COVID-19 kept courtrooms empty for many months, with hearings only conducted on-line. 

“We went almost two years with hardly any trials, I think maybe we had one or two trials,” Skemp says, but “crime did not stop.”

La Crosse County has filed around one thousand felony cases each of the last two years, down about 100 from the number filed in 2019, just before the pandemic began.   

Four circuit judges are hearing cases in La Crosse County. The clerk of court’s office says Judge Ramona Gonzalez has finished hearing cases, as she prepares to retire in July.  

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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