Few cases require trial here

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Covington County court system appears to be slowly emptying its backlog, according to statistics released by the state’s Administrative Office of Courts.

The AOC’s Alabama Unified Judicial System’s 2008 annual report and statistics shows that while the overall number of felony criminal cases filed in Covington County in 2008 decreased from 2007, the number of disposed felony cases rose during the same time period.

The report, which can be found on the AOC’s Web site and includes statistics for the entire state, breaks down the county’s statistics for cases in both circuit and district courts.

In circuit court, a total of 1,818 cases were filed locally in 2008 — a figure that includes all criminal, civil, domestic and juvenile cases.

Of those, the breakdown is as follows:

Criminal: 875 (414 felony cases, 461 “other” cases).

Civil: 294 cases.

Domestic: 649 (419 original filings, 230 modifications).

Juvenile: None.

There were 817 disposed criminal cases, or cases in which a judicial decision has been made through various means, in 2008. That was an increase of 72 cases from 2007’s 745 disposed cases.

The report also compared the number of jury trials to the number of cases disposed for both criminal and civil cases.

In 2007, there were 24 criminal jury trials, which means that 3.2 percent of the 745 disposed criminal cases resulted in a jury trial. Three civil jury trials were held, meaning 1.09 percent of the 273 disposed civil cases filed resulted in a jury trial.

In 2008, the number of criminal jury trials decreased just slightly to 3.05 percent when 25 of the 817 cases disposed of resulted in a jury trial. Among civil cases, 2.39 percent — or six — of the 251 disposed cases resulted in a jury trial. Those 31 total trials cost the state $16,940.

In the local district court, which hears cases relating to traffic citations, small claims, civil-related, juvenile and child support, 13,243 cases were filed in 2008.

More than half of those 13,000-plus cases — 6,753 — were traffic related. In 2008, there was an increase of 2,000 more total cases filed in 2007, which saw 11,153 cases filed.

Covington County ranked fourth among neighboring counties in terms of total circuit court cases filed.

The highest total was in District 20’s Henry and Houston counties, who logged 8,476 cases; second was Dale and Geneva counties, or District 33, which documented 3,319 cases; third was District 12, which includes Coffee and Pike counties, who documented 3,450 cases; Covington County ranked fourth with 1,818 total circuit court cases; fifth was District 2, which includes Butler, Crenshaw and Lowndes counties, with 1,644 cases; and lastly, District 21 or Escambia County with 1,450 total cases.