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December 19, 2014

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SIX QUESTIONS:

T. Arthur Ritchie Jr., Chief judge, District Court

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Steve Marcus

District Court Chief Judge T. Arthur Ritchie Jr. says nine new judges in Clark County, seven of whom are to handle civil cases, will help achieve a central goal: providing access to justice.

T. Arthur Ritchie Jr. is the first Family Court judge to serve a two-year stint as chief judge in District Court in Clark County. He oversees 37 judges, 24 in District Court and 13 in Family Court. Ritchie, 47, was appointed to Family Court in March 1999 by then-Gov. Kenny Guinn, then elected to his first full six-year term in 2002 and reelected in 2008.

The Legislature passed measures to add nine new judges in Clark County in January 2011. What will they do?

Seven of the judges will be handling civil cases. That’s where we have the biggest growth. Civil cases so far are projecting to increase by 30 percent over last year. By the end of the year we’re expecting 31,000 new cases. The other two judges will be assigned to Family Court.

What will the new judges allow you to do?

It will help us deliver what we need to deliver — access to justice. We’ll be able to reduce the disposition time of cases and spend more resources expanding our specialty courts. We’re starting a veterans court in July. We’ll be expanding business court and the mental health and drug courts.

You’re running out of space at the Regional Justice Center, so where are the new courtrooms going to be built?

We are going to have to be innovative to accommodate these new judges. Some courtrooms will be at the Regional Justice Center, some will be across the street at the Phoenix Building, and some will be at the Family Court complex.

Will all nine judges get a courtroom?

Probably not. We’re probably going to add seven or eight new courtrooms. We’re going to be very fiscally responsible. We’re looking for cost savings everywhere.

Earlier this year, District Court began streamlining the legal process by going paperless with all civil case filings. It also launched a new online case management system. How is that working?

It’s an adjustment. It’s very hard for everybody to buy into change, but by and large it has been successful.

What’s the next step in the paperless route?

We’re promoting e-filing. One of my goals is to have mandatory e-filings within the next year. We’ll be doing training seminars with law firms in the coming months and plan to open a civil resource center at the courthouse to help folks with their legal business.

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