Posted by Jim Wayman on May 25, 2021
  Chief Judge Merlin Wheeler of the Fifth Judicial District was our guest at our Rotary Club meeting held on Zoom. Since March of 2020, remote judicial hearings have been conducted. This past year has been one of an escalation of many planned changes. Over four thousand remote hearings have occurred since July 2020, and change and flexibility will be the rule going forward. Covid relief funds have contributed toward a technology fund that has paid for upgraded electronics in the courtrooms with live streaming that can be viewed on YouTube. Jury trials have recently resumed, with a current backlog of 70 cases is in the process of being caught up. The effects of the pandemic have opened access to hearings and the judicial system through the use of electronics, and a new case management system will be going live in August. Judge Wheeler provided several views of the courtroom from which he was broadcasting. Salaries, however, have not been competitive of late due to inaction of the Kansas Legislature.