Courts expanded to deal with child abuse cases

By JARED MILLER/Montana State News

The Montana State Legislature is considering a new bill that addresses the increased number of child neglect and abuse cases by appointing more judges in four Montana counties to take them.

The number of child abuse cases in Montana has risen by 155 percent from 2009 to 2015, with case numbers increasing by 244 percent in Great Falls and nearly tripling in Missoula, according to the Great Falls Tribune.

Currently, Montana has 46 district judges available to handle civil cases such as child neglect and abuse, according to the Independent Record, approximately 20 judges short of what the state needs, according to a judicial caseload study.

Rep. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, sponsored House Bill 44 which, if passed, would add one district judge to Cascade, Flathead, and Missoula counties and two to Yellowstone County, districts that have seen a rise in child abuse numbers, according to the Great Falls Tribune.

Reports of crimes against children have drastically increased in urban areas as opposed to rural ones. Cities like Billings, Great Falls, and Missoula have seen the greatest rise and are thus the areas being proposed for the new judges.

The proposed bill would cost the state approximately $2.5 million a year, with each new judge costing $500,000, according to the Independent Record.

According to KTVH in Helena, if the bill passes, Gov. Steve Bullock would appoint two of the judges this year while the remaining three would be elected in November 2018 and would begin to take on cases starting in 2019.

– edited by Rania Ampntel Chafint

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