San Bernardino Lawyers Brace For Their ‘Reorganization’

The next wave of Superior Court reorganization is slated for San Bernardino early next year, and lawyers there are not happy about the changes, according to The Sun newspaper. The Sun reported that “… attorneys spoke to executive staff at the San Bernardino County Superior Court last week about alternatives to a planned reorganization that will have some people traveling farther distances for court cases.
Lawyers involved in the meeting told the newspaper that suggestions of cost savings and other ideas were not going to change the situation. The presiding judge of the county’s Superior Court announced in October that significant changes would occur next year during the 2014 realignment, which would include moving countywide civil cases to the new San Bernardino Justice Center.
See the story here.  

Chief Justice Notices ‘Two-Tiered’ Court System

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (Photo: California Courts)

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (Photo: California Courts)

Anyone seeking evidence that California has created a two-tier system that denies justice to lower income residents can just ask the state’s chief justice. Echoing a host of earlier comments, Tani Cantil-Sakauye told KQED News that “The truth is, those who can will use other, private alternatives… but those of us who need to go to the court, who don’t have those resources, find ourselves frankly getting a second system of justice.” 
The report also included that “… the Chief said severe state budget cuts had created a ‘two-tier system of justice’ in California, where shuttered courthouses and shorter courtroom hours are ‘basically denying justice across the state.'” The comment continue a consistent message from state court managers that the system is broken and that the losers include lower and moderate income people who need the courts.
See video and read more about this particular interview, which includes that the chief justice self-identified as a Republican, here.  

‘Gold Rush’ On For Court Technologies

California may not have enough money to keep community courthouses open, but it has plenty for the next wave of tech upgrades in the wake of that half-billion-dollar failure Court Case Management System failure. In fact, Maria Dinezo at the Courthouse News Service writes that “… a new gold rush has come to California, with the state’s massive legal system open for mining as courts and lawyers move to new technology.”
The report notes that gold rushers “… are scrambling for a mother lode of multimillion-dollar contracts for software and licensing, vast additional sums for upkeep, and the right to set up a toll booth on Court Road for 38 million people.” Some clear winners are identified, as “… a group of judges, tech staff and administrators wrote a model contract and selected three top bidders: New Mexico-based Justice Systems Inc., Texas-based Tyler Technologies and Pennsylvania-based LT-Tech owned by Thompson Reuters formerly West Publishing.”
Included in the model contract: The right to charge lawyers a fee for every document electronically filed, perhaps around $5. Dinezo does some math: “In one big Southern California court, for example, about 750,000 documents are projected to be filed this year. That’s in Orange County’s civil section alone. Multiplied by a $5 fee, the flow of money would amount to $3 million a year. Extrapolating based on population, total income from the per-document fees could easily rise to $40 million a year throughout the state, paid by California’s lawyers.”
And that’s just for civil litigation and does not include separate fees for stuff like installation and upkeep. Follow more of the money here.

Gov. Signs Law, Illegal Immigrants Can Become Lawyers

Surprising nobody, Gov. Brown has signed legislation that allows an illegal immigrant to become an attorney — if they have gained the proper academic credentials and passed the state bar. The law comes after a Chico man named Sergio Garcia, a law school graduate who has awaited a green card for almost 10 years, appealed his license denial all the way to the state supreme court.
The Obama administration had opposed the idea, arguing that federal immigration law blocks such professional licensing unless states pass a specific law allowing law licenses for illegal immigrants. Stumped, the state’s supreme court judges asked the legislature to adopt such a law and it did, leading to Brown’s signature this week.

Juvenile Court Issues Set For Dec. 4 ‘Summit’

Critics of how the Los Angeles Superior Court chose to close juvenile justice facilities may get a chance to air their concerns. The state court system is planning a Dec. 4 “statewide summit” hosted by Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

Called the Summit on Keeping Kids in School and Out of Court, it will bring experts to Anaheim to “… examine truancy and school discipline policies creating a ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ for California’s children and youth.”

The state website says the summit will be paid for, in part, by private companies but does not name the sponsors. Find out more here.

Already? For 2014 Courts Face A Zinger

Apparently it’s not too early to begin fearing at least one aspect of California court spending next year. As of the 2014-15 fiscal year starting July 1, 2014, trial courts will no longer be able to maintain reserves greater than one percent of annual appropriations, reports Rachel Stine in The Coast News, who quotes a court official explaining that “… these reserve funds have previously been used to finance large projects, including technology upgrades, as well as expenditures during low revenue years…”
In other words, it allowed a particular court to squirrel away some cash. And that goes away next year. The newspaper report also outlines the increasing difficulty facing San Diego civil courts, and notes the closing of yet another juvenile justice facility. Court officials explained to Stine that “… there is a lack of community outreach to legislators and politicians about the funding for the judiciary branch” and added that their efforts lobbying with other bar associations and encouraging their clients to campaign for more court funding has only gone so far.
“There is no constituency that is banging on the door and saying, ‘We need our courts to be funded,’” said one official. Read the report here

Gov. Brown Hires For Superior Court Positions

A few new people will be coming to work for the state’s superior court system soon, but as regular readers have no doubt realized it’s not support staff. Announced is another round of judicial hires for the state-mandated $178,789-per-year jobs. Notable among this round of appointments is Sunil R. Kulkarni, who the South Asian Bar Association identifies as the first South Asian American judge ever appointed in Northern California, and an actual Republican for the San Diego Superior Court bench (most Brown-selected judges are Democrats).
California actually elects its judges. But typical judicial careers begin with an appointment by the governor to fill an open bench. Those chosen rarely face election challenges. The Republican judge in the San Diego court has served as a deputy public defender at the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office, Office of the Primary Public Defender since 1994 and has been an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law since 2003.
Details and background from the new judges abounds at the California Newswire.

After Layoffs, L.A. Courts Hiring Again – Judges That Is

After laying off more than 100 justice workers over the past month and eliminating hundreds more positions, the Los Angeles Superior Court has announced a half-dozen new hires for some $178,789-per-year jobs. Gov. Brown announced the appointment of six new judges last week, including two Superior Court commissioners, one former public defender and two prosecutors.
In one of the ironies of the justice rationing system, judges are protected in their jobs. Yet some have complained that they are actually not that effective due to staff cutbacks. Most judges begin their time on the bench after a governor’s appointment, and while they then face “election” most never face serious opposition.
The new judges are Loyd C. Loomis, Nicole C. Bershon, Beverly L. Bourne, Rupa S. Goswami, Curtis A. Kin and Teresa T. Sullivan. You can read more about them here.

Bay Area TV Report Hits Hard On Court Delays, Funding

The NBC affiliated TV station in San Francisco has broadcast a strong story about court delays due to ongoing budget cuts, including a court critic who notes that the judicial administrators are partly to blame for poor spending decsions. The “Bay Area Investigative Unit” found delays in every one of California’s 58 Superior Court systems and documented backlogs that included 30,000 documents stacked on one court’s floor awaiting proper filing.

Among the hard-hit are family courts, and the Investigative Unit reported the story of a Contra Costa County family court custody dispute for more than three years, leaving five and seven year old kids in legal limbo.

“I see my children,” the mother involved in the custody battle told the station. “They cry for me.”

Watch the report here. (Editor’s note: the print version on the website is a bit different from the video, which includes more details.)



Gov’s Appointment of South Asian Woman Makes Superior Court History

It’s making the rounds that Gov. Jerry Brown’s July 12 appointment of a South Pasadena resident to the L.A. Superior Court made a bit of history. Rupa S. Goswami, 46, is the first South Asian American woman ever named to the California judiciary, according to multiple sources.
The new judge has worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California since 2001. She fills a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Gary E. Daigh. While Superior Court judges are elected, most begin service via a governor’s appointment and few face serious political challenges after they are appointed.
There’s a good profile on the historic move at the India West news website: Read more here!