gavel

Governor wants to shift positions; Legislature wants more spots. Either way, Inland Empire loses.

By Jeff Horseman / Staff Writer
Published: June 13, 2016
Updated:   June 14, 2016 – 9:12 a.m.

The Inland region’s chronic shortage of judges is now caught in a political tug-of-war between a plan favored by Gov. Jerry Brown and another favored by Democratic lawmakers.

In November, the governor vetoed legislation by state Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, that would have added judicial positions. Brown said he preferred to see judges reallocated from judge-rich counties to those that desperately need them, such as Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Sticking with the governor’s plan, the Senate version of the new state budget, which was finalized last week, would have reallocated four judgeships from Alameda and Santa Clara counties to Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

But the Assembly’s version did not, and the budget conference committee, which consists of Assembly and Senate members, went with the Assembly version Thursday.

“My feeling was rather than try moving judges from another jurisdiction … really what we should do is add additional judgeships to address the issue rather than really trying to steal from other counties,” Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, said during the committee meeting.

Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear Lake, who represents part of San Bernardino County, responded that the governor was “very clear” he wanted to reallocate judgeships, not add more of them.

“I have to look my constituents in the eye and tell them why their courthouses are closed because they don’t have enough judges, when the Judicial Council’s workload allocation formulas say that we have over-resourced counties and those counties have vacancies in their judgeships,” said Obernolte, the Assembly budget committee’s vice chairman.

“Access to justice is probably one of the most critical aspects that government provides to our citizenry and we’re really failing in the under-resourced counties.”

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