LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Eighth Judicial District Court Chief Judge Linda Bell said there are currently about 2,000 civil jury trials that need to be resolved in Clark County and 350 on the criminal side.

She said there were many cases in the pipeline before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“March 1 of 2020, we had about 3,500 civil trials set. And now we have about 5,500,” said Bell.

The judge said the district was also hit with an increase in criminal cases during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you look at June to September of 2019, compared to June to September of 2021, we had 2,000 more criminal cases filed,” said Bell.

Because the number of jury trials continues to fluctuate, the judge said the backlog of cases is imprecise, but District Court wanted to have an idea for comparison to see how it’s doing with jury trials.

Bell said the court is doing several things to help reduce the backlog, including an “overflow system” that judges have. When judges have cases ready to go, Bell said they find someone to try them right away. She also said judges try to get cases settled out of court.

“We have a criminal conference program. We’ve increased the number of those we’re doing every week. We have multiple civil settlement conference programs. So, we have one where the sitting judges, when they aren’t in trial or aren’t doing other things, they’ll try to get cases settled. We also have senior judges that come in and do settlement conferences for us. We work really hard to resolve cases that can be resolved, because that also lowers the number of cases that are set for trial,” she said.

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Bell also talked about an option District Court considered as it planned for the possibility of a worsening pandemic early on.

“The nuclear option, which is that we would have entirely remote appearances. The judge, the clerk, everybody involved would be just on video so nobody would have to go to a court facility,” said Bell.

The virtual appearances by judges and staff would have been from home and included defendants, unless they were in jail where they would have appeared virtually. The judge says the court also discussed the limited amount of cases that would have been given top priority under the nuclear option.

Those included criminal cases that involved domestic violence temporary restraining orders along with child abuse and neglect cases. Virtual appearances are still a big part of the court system today in helping reduce the backlog as well as deal with keeping people safe from COVID-19 in the court system.

Bell said she hopes to get through the backlog in a year to 18 months.

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