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Gallatin district court feels growing pains

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Town Crier “Briefs from the Region” (2) – 5/7/21

The Gallatin County’s District Court is bursting at the seams with the influx of growth, says Judge Rienne H. McElyea, one of three judges in the county. With the Gallatin’s population passing 100,000 however, the county should have approximately seven full-time judges to keep up with the expanding workload, according to the state Supreme Court Administrator’s Office. While they can currently keep up with quicker civil trials, the county’s judges are booking longer trials years out due to the volume of requests. The staff is doing the best they can, says DeWolf, but the time lost in these cases is a growing burden.

“When a family gets separated because the department has removed children, a lot of times they don’t see the judge until about 20 days from that removal,” DeWolf told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “It’s heartbreaking, and that period of time creates a lot of resentment between the parents and the (Child Protective Services) worker, and it almost creates a barrier that is really hard to overcome later.”

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