Fewer Judges Face Increasing Caseload in Loudoun’s Circuit Court

Circuit Court caseload data show that Loudoun’s four full-time judges were plenty busy during 2016, and illustrate the challenges facing the judiciary after one of the positions was defunded by the General Assembly in the state budget.

This information was obtained from the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court and the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Caseload Growth

Between 2015 and 2016, the overall Loudoun County Circuit Court caseload increased 13.4 percent. Criminal cases increased 6.3 percent, while civil cases marked a decline of 2.9 percent. The miscellaneous caseload—such as juvenile appeals and adoptions—increased 24.3 percent.

Early figures from 2017 show that growth continuing. The judges handled 29 percent more criminal cases in January 2017 than in January 2016 and 37.9 percent more civil cases.

Judges per Capita

Advocates for retaining the fourth Loudoun judgeship have argued that the county’s docket features more complex and complicated cases than are found in other circuits around the state. However, figures also show that, even on a per capita basis, Loudoun’s judge roster is smaller than other similar jurisdictions.

These comparisons use the population data provided by the Supreme Court of Virginia as of October 2016.

Arlington County, population 207,627, has three circuit court judges—a judge to population ratio of 1:69,209. During 2016, they heard 59 jury trials, an average of 19.6 jury trials per judge.

Chesterfield County, population 316,236, has six circuit court judges—a ratio of 1:52,706. They heard 49 jury trials, an average of 8.2 jury trials per judge.

Henrico County, population 306,935, has five circuit court judges—a ratio of 1:61,387. They heard 42 jury trials, an average of 8.4 jury trials per judge.

The City of Richmond, population 204,214, has seven circuit court judges—a ratio of 1:29,173. They heard 67 jury trials, an average of 9.6 jury trials per judge.

Prince William County, population 402,002, will have five judges after one position was defunded in the General Assembly’s budget. The ratio of judges (with this reduction) to population is 1:80,900. Last year, six judges heard 90 jury trials, an average of 15 jury trials per judge.

Loudoun County, population 313,311, had four judges in 2016. The ratio of judges (with the reduction to three) is 1:104,437. In 2016, four judges heard 60 jury trials, an average of 15 jury trials per judge. With a similar caseload in 2017, three judges would have an average of 20 jury trials.

Picking Up the Slack

During 2016, Judge Burke F. McCahill, who held the defunded position until his retirement in December, presided over 3,855 cases, including 2,677 criminal cases, 1,044 civil cases, 127 juvenile appeal cases, and seven adoptions. His caseload will be distributed among the three remaining judges.

Additionally, even while staffed with four full-time judges, the Circuit relied heavily on substitute judges to help process cases. During 2016, seven substitute judges were called to serve a total of 105 days hearing cases in Loudoun. They handled 1,420 criminal court hearings or trials, 475 civil court hearings or trials, 87 juvenile appeals or adoption case hearings, and 389 concealed handgun permit cases.

During 2016, 6,226 cases were handled by the now-defunded judge position or by substitute judges.

Leave a Reply