Maricopa County Court Adds Judges To Speed Up Severance Cases
Starting this week, more judges are taking on juvenile court cases. The new program at the Maricopa County Superior Court will deal with the high volume of incoming dependency and severance cases.
Nineteen civil judges will take turns hearing severance cases, which have about doubled in the last five years. In these cases, judges decide whether to terminate parents’ legal rights over their children.
“We want to make sure that the court isn’t doing anything to cause delay or increase delay,” said presiding juvenile court Judge Colleen McNally . “Frankly, I don’t think we will be able to have a really big impact till we do something about the front end.”
She is referring to removals. According to the latest report, between April and September 2015, the Department of Child Safety removed 6,819 kids from their homes. That’s a 15-percent increase from the previous six months.
McNally also said the courts are constrained by how quickly families are provided mandated social services.
“We have to engage the families and try to help the families remediate the situation” she said. “If those things don’t happen, the court can’t move forward to provide permanency to the child.”
According to McNally, juvenile judges have about 400 cases at any one time. There is no scheduled end date for the program and trials are already scheduled through October.