Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Becker wants additional help for his office.
Becker said his office is seeing more and more cases every year. He said another prosecutor would help.
“For like-size counties, our caseload is significantly higher,” he said. “We need another prosecutor in a bad way.”
In 2019, the office prosecuted more than 1,000 felony cases for the third straight year and nearly 4,000 misdemeanor cases.
Felony cases have increased in the last 10 years from 728 to 1,521.
The amount of cases is a lot of work for the office, Becker said.
The Franklin County Commission has not allocated money in the 2020 budget for an additional prosecutor.
Without an additional prosecutor, Becker said the workload will remain high. Other offices can offer less work and be enticing to members of his staff.
“We can’t compete with counties that are paying higher and have lower caseloads,” he said.
Becker said some area prosecutor’s offices also offer more than just money. Some offices, like Jefferson County, have more resources.
“A lot of the other responsibilities that just kill a day to a day-and-a-half a week, other people handle those things for them,” he said.
Becker said he will be pushing for the county to add another prosecutor in the future.
In addition to another prosecutor, Becker said he’d like to see more changes for the local courts. He’s long advocated for an additional judge for the 20th Judicial Circuit.
There are seven judges in the three-county 20th Circuit Court system, which also includes Gasconade and Osage counties. That includes Circuit Judge Craig Hellmann and Presiding Circuit Judge Ike Lamke.
Associate circuit judges in Franklin County are David Hoven, Stan Williams and Joe Purschke. The other two associate judges are Ada Brehe-Krueger, Gasconade County, and Robert D. Schollmeyer, Osage County.
When it comes to handling the caseload there are six judges hearing cases because one judge handles all probate and other civil matters.
A new judge would have to be added by the state.
An additional judge and prosecutor would help ease the backlog. Becker said he often feels like much of his job is trying old cases.
“We’re consistently issuing more cases than the four judges can dispose of,” Becker said.
The backlog isn’t easing up anytime soon, he said. In fact, he anticipates more and more cases coming to his office.
“We haven’t gotten a new judge in Franklin County since Jimmy Carter was president,” he said. “Ask yourself how many cops we had in Franklin County in 1978.”
Becker said the increase in officers has led to an increase in tickets.
“When Prop P passed, one of the things was we’re going to attract and retain more and better police officers,” Becker said. “Well those guys solve more crimes and make more arrests. That means it’s all a funnel. It starts with them.
“If we’re filing more than the court’s going to handle, it’s going to back up,” he said.
Becker said his goal is to reduce the backlog.
“I’m trying to put an emphasis on getting these cases moving, but in order for that to be a realistic goal, we’re going to need another judge and we’re going to need another prosecutor. I’d settle for another prosecutor.”