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Published May 14, 2012, 11:20 AM

Crime caseload rising in southwest ND oil patch

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) — Attorneys and judges in several counties in North Dakota's oil patch are struggling to keep up with a climbing caseload.

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) — Attorneys and judges in several counties in North Dakota's oil patch are struggling to keep up with a climbing caseload.

Cases in Southwest District Court increased more than 9 percent from 2010 to 2011, The Dickinson Press reported (http://bit.ly/Jv5F9i ). Some counties such as Billings saw even more dramatic jumps. Judge William Herauf said it's taking people longer to get through the court system.

"The attorneys around this area are just overrun with work," he said. "Trying to get them to be able to get into court, unfortunately it requires continuances and that stretches everything out.

"We've got three courtrooms here (in Dickinson) and we've got all three of them going at once," Herauf said. "There's not much more we can do. We're doing the best we can."

Billings County State's Attorney Jay Brovold said he believes much of the increase is due to the influx of people seeking work in the booming oil patch.

"I'm sure most of them are working in the area, but they're not natives or permanent residents here," he said.

Herauf said the eight-county judicial district is on pace to have about 13,700 traffic violations this year — an increase of more than 50 percent from 2008, before the oil boom took off. Civil court cases have risen 7 percent since that year, and criminal cases are up 10 percent.

"We are stretched to the max," Stark County Clerk of Court Linda Splichal said. "There's just so much extra work. All we can do is try to get the day-to-day things done and try to stay on top of it."

Counties in the Southwest Judicial District are Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, Slope and Stark.

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Information from: The Dickinson Press, http://www.thedickinsonpress.com

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