Last week, Assembly Bill 2341 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with broad bipartisan support. The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Jay Olbernolte, would provide Riverside and San Bernardino counties with additional judges to address the counties’ severely backlogged court systems.
“I am grateful that my colleagues in the Senate recognize the need for improved access to justice in San Bernardino County,” Obernolte said in a written statement. “While we all agree that increased court funding would be the preferred solution, AB 2341 takes a necessary step in that direction to help address the immediate judicial shortfall in the Inland Empire.”
In recent years, Governor Jerry Brown has been reluctant to fund new judgeships. In October, 2015, the Governor vetoed SB 229. That bill called for the state to spend $5 million on 12 superior court judges. In his veto message, Brown explained he was aware of the serious need for judges, especially in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “However, before funding any new positions,” he stated, “I intend to work with the Judicial Council to balance the workload and distribution of judgeships around the state.”
AB 2341 is the first attempt at addressing the Governor’s request and would provide multiple judges to Riverside and San Bernardino counties, which are both at the top of the list of under-resourced counties in California.
Riverside and San Bernardino counties have the worst shortage of judges in the state. According to reports, the shortage is partly the result of rapid growth in the inland region that has impacted the ability of local judges to hear civil and criminal cases in a timely manner.
In the two-and-a-half-year period between January 2007 to June 2009, hundreds of felony and misdemeanor cases were dismissed because there were not enough judges to hear the cases before the hearing dates expired.