10:00 PM PDT on Thursday, April 29, 2010

By RICHARD K. DE ATLEY
The Press-Enterprise

Riverside County district attorney candidate Paul Zellerbach criticized incumbent Rod Pacheco’s management of his office’s budget and its criminal case filing policies, saying both are excessive and costly to taxpayers.

The accusations from Zellerbach came at a campaign forum that had invited both candidates. As with two previous forums offered by other groups, Pacheco did not reply to the invitation.

“He probably will attend one of the upcoming forums,” his campaign manager, Brian Floyd, said Thursday night.

Floyd said the DA’s office has taken budget cuts and that Zellerbach was wrong to blame Pacheco for court dismissals of 330 cases over the past three years. The cases were tossed because they had come to the end of their speedy-trial limits with no judge available to hear them. Pacheco in the past has blamed judges for delaying hearings.

“Mr. Pacheco wants to blame that on the court,” said Zellerbach, a judge who has taken a paid leave of absence to run against Pacheco. “We (judges) don’t file criminal cases, we have … limited legal ability to resolve cases. That’s the district attorney’s function and responsibility.”

Until recently, Riverside County courts have suffered from the worst congestion in the state. The system has improved and no speedy-trial dismissals have taken place since June.

Zellerbach spoke to a crowd during a candidate forum at the Zacatecas Café east of downtown Riverside. It was sponsored by the Inland Empire Latino Lawyers Association.

Floyd countered: “Paul Zellerbach is a man who does not want to take responsibility for his own actions. This guy is a poster boy for delays.”

He cited a 2006 a public admonition Zellerbach received for leaving an October 2004 trial unattended. A verdict came in and Zellerbach, who had gone to an Angels playoff game, did not arrange for another judge to take it. It had to be delivered the next morning.

Zellerbach has called it “a mistake that I made six years ago and have not repeated since.”

He also criticized Pacheco’s budget, claiming it has gone up 71 percent in the past three years. The district attorney office budget for fiscal 2009-10 was nearly $94 million, Zellerbach said.

Zellerbach said he believes the Riverside County resources are going into trials. Over the past three years, the office has had a less than 45 percent conviction rate on all charges brought to trial, he said.

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