Annual report shows positive outlook for local justice system

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, March 23, 2016

(Leader file photo)

(Leader file photo)

The house of law and justice in Cass County appears to remain well in order, according to the annual report recently produced by the county court system.

Be it the continued success of the county’s various treatment programs or another year of positive responses from users, the results of the 2014/2015 Cass County Courts annual report paint a very positive outlook of the operations of the local judicial system.

Last week, Probate Judge Susan Dobrich presented the results of the report to the members of the Cass County Board of Commissioners, highlighting the successes of the Cassopolis courthouse over the past year as well as some of the challenges facing the judge and other senior employees of the Cass County justice system.

“If I would define the state of the courts, I would say ‘excellent,’” Dobrich said.

Among the high points of the report is the county’s case flow management numbers, or goals set by the state for how quickly criminal and civil cases are resolved.
According to the report, the county courts have 80 percent or higher compliance with these numbers, including 100 percent figures in more than 20 different categories.

These figures are the best in Michigan, and is something Judge Dobrich is particularly proud of due to the added expense to litigants when cases are delayed in court, she said.

“We do believe that not only do we process cases efficiently and compassionately, but we process them timely so that citizens are receiving timely dispositions of their cases,” Dobrich said.

The court’s recent public satisfaction surveys were also positive, with 98 percent of respondents saying they were treated with courtesy and respect by court staff, slightly above the statewide average.

“That’s a statistic I’m proud of,” Dobrich said. “You can’t always rule for somebody, you can’t ways find for somebody, but if you give someone due process and treat them fairly — that is what our ultimate goal is.”

The court’s various treatment programs continue to be a source of pride for the judge as well, with Family Treatment Court having a 62 percent success rate, Adult Treatment Court having an 80 percent graduation rate, Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program having a 75 percent graduation rate and Sobriety Court having a 70 percent graduation rate.

One the big issues facing the county court system is the substantial increase in child removal cases in recent months. Since Oct. 1, 67 children have removed from their homes, mainly due to use or sell of methamphetamine or heroin by parents, Dobrich said.

“That’s huge,” the judge said. “It’s like an additional elementary. I anticipate we’re going to continue to see that occurring throughout the state, throughout the country, because of a rise in addictions to opiates.”