Doreen Boxer

Mike Cruz, Staff Writer
Posted: 06/21/2010 08:15:46 PM PDT

Editor’s note: Part two of a two-part look at San Bernardino County’s justice system.

SAN BERNARDINO – Proposed budget cuts in the Public Defender’s Office for fiscal year 2010-11 could mean that criminal cases take longer to make their way through the justice system in San Bernardino County.

The office recently publicized that it was eliminating 39 positions, 30 of which were already vacant. Most had been unfilled for more than a year, and one was empty for almost three years, explained Public Defender Doreen Boxer.

But nine of the positions were filled, and those personnel have already received layoff notices.

“That hurts, of course,” Boxer said in an interview Thursday. “We did our best to prepare
them for it.”

None of the nine people were attorneys, and the county is looking to see if they can be placed in other openings. Still, the loss of personnel can have a profound impact.

The Public Defender’s Office plays a key role in the administration of justice by providing constitutionally mandated legal services to indigent clients in various types of cases.

The office’s proposed budget for fiscal 2010-11 is $32.9 million, a decrease over the previous year’s budget of $35.5 million, according to county spokesman David Wert. But office staffing is taking a hit, from 284 personnel in 2009-10 to 245 in next fiscal year.

“It’s going to certainly delay our case processing,” said Boxer.

That means it may take longer for cases to make their way through the justice system, as the office compensates with less support personnel. Existing staff will have to accept the additional workload.

“We’ll still provide the highest quality representation for our clients,” Boxer said.

“I’m hopeful in the future we’ll get more of them,” Boxer added.

In 2006, when Boxer first arrived as San Bernardino County’s Public Defender, she received additional positions. She got even more the next year. But times now are much leaner, and Boxer’s office has looked for ways to save money.

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