AUGUSTA — The number of pending court cases in Maine has increased about 45 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, and there’s little hope of eliminating the backlog anytime soon, Maine’s chief justice told lawmakers Tuesday.

Entering the third year of the pandemic, Maine’s court system is better adapted to hold trials and ensure prompt bail hearings for people facing criminal charges, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Valerie Stanfill said in her State of the Judiciary address.

But the “uncomfortable reality” is that the state’s legal system lacks the ability to hear more cases with its existing resources, making it difficult to get caught up on pending cases, she said.

“We have yet to be able to cut the backlog in any meaningful way. But we are holding steady,” she said.

She said that the judicial branch is facing the same hiring and recruitment challenges as the private workforce. She noted that there are more vacancies but the judicial branch isn’t giving up.

“For two years now we have been struggling to carry out our mission and to serve the citizens of Maine, but our commitment to do so is unwavering,” Stanfill said.

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