Courts

By Cassie MacDuff, The Press-Enterprise
Posted: 08/14/16 – 2:11 PM PDT |

Baffling. That’s all that can be said about the state Senate Appropriations Committee killing a bill last week that would have addressed a critical shortage of judges in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Inland legislators and judicial leaders have been trying to address the shortage for a decade now, and have gotten bipartisan support in the Legislature for legislation that would fix it.

One approach was to at last fund seats on the bench that were created years ago but never filled because no money was appropriated by the Legislature.

The governor vetoed that bill by Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, last fall, saying he wanted to shift judicial seats from counties that have an abundance to counties that are short, rather than fund new positions.

Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear Lake, came back this year with a bill that would have shifted seats from Santa Clara and Alameda counties, which the state Judicial Council says have a greater share than other counties, to the inland counties.

Not surprisingly, Santa Clara and Alameda counties didn’t like that idea.

But Obernolte managed to get them to drop their opposition, said Riverside County Presiding Judge Hal Hopp.

Labor groups including the SEIU also dropped their opposition after they were assured that moving the judicial positions wouldn’t hurt their members who are court support staff. No support staff positions would be moved.

What’s not to like?

Yet Obernolte’s bill was among hundreds that died in committee as the Legislature adjourned for the year last week. It’s effectively dead for this two-year legislative session.

“That was really disappointing, because the assemblyman had worked really hard to get this legislation to where the Santa Clara court and the Alameda court, if not happy, but at least would not oppose the bill,” Hopp said.

Republican Obernolte also got Democratic support for the measure, as Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, signed on as co-author.

To read expanded column, click here.