A bill to split off three of the 18th Judicial District’s counties to create a 23rd District has just started its journey through the legislature. The separation, if approved, wouldn’t take effect until 2025, meaning there are a lot of details for lawmakers to consider and negotiate before it happens. The bill and its fiscal note don’t include caseload estimates for the newly drawn districts, but the split is worth some back-of-the-envelope estimates about how caseloads in the 18th and 23rd Districts might look based on recent statewide and district trends in criminal filings.
Case numbers provided to Law Week by the 18th District show felony cases in the district increased 25.57% from 2015 to 2019. Over those five years, between 73% and 78% of felony cases were in Arapahoe County. Between 18% and 22% of felonies in the same period were charged in Douglas County.
State data shows overall criminal filings in the current 18th District rose 26.47% between 2015 and 2019, although the judicial department compiles its data based on its July to June fiscal year rather than the calendar year, a key difference from data provided by the 18th District.
The recent growth in case numbers suggests felony filings in an 18th District that just includes Arapahoe County could reach around 5,308 by 2025, when the split would take effect, calculated using the recent five-year growth rate. Felony cases in the 23rd District covering Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties could reach about 2,365.
No one particular factor appears to have caused the increase in filings, but a few district attorneys were still willing to discuss with Law Week some patterns they expect to see in the coming years.
“People have asked me … ‘What’s the big change?’ And I can’t put my finger on one single change,” said 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler.