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October 26, 2010

California Supreme Court upholds dismissal of criminal cases due to lack of judges

The dysfunctionality of California's criminal justice system never ceases to surprise me, and the latest data point in this ever on-going story is reflected in this new Los Angeles Times article.  The piece is headlined "State Supreme Court upholds Riverside County's dismissal of criminal cases," and here are excerpts:

A shortage of judges in Riverside County has led to the dismissal of hundreds of criminal cases, a practice the California Supreme Court upheld on Monday and blamed on the state's budget woes. In unanimous ruling, the state high court said Riverside County's dearth of judges represented a "chronic" problem that was the fault of the budget-strapped state.

The case before the court involved an accused burglar, one of 18 criminal defendants whose cases were dismissed on the same day after they invoked their rights to speedy trials.  Two of the 18 were charged with felonies.  Riverside County Deputy Public Defender William A. Meronek said Monday's ruling also would end prosecution for as many as 300 other defendants whose cases were on appeal after being dismissed for lack of judges.

But Riverside County Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Tate said his office would fight to prosecute the most serious of the dismissed cases. "There are quite a few very serious allegations, some involving dead bodies — vehicular manslaughter, assault on police officer, assault with deadly weapon, crimes against children," said Tate, who argued the case before the Supreme Court.

The judiciary has long insisted that California needs more judges, but nowhere has the shortage been more dramatic than in Riverside County.... Riverside prosecutors challenged the dismissals, arguing that the court should have made every judge in the courthouse, including those in juvenile, family law and probate, available for the cases. But the state high court said Riverside County already was giving criminal cases priority over civil disputes, and the court was not required to halt proceedings in civil cases to make room for criminal matters.  An absolute rule giving precedence to all criminal cases could force a court "to abandon entirely its responsibility to provide for the fair administration of civil as well as criminal matters," George wrote....

A 2004 study by the Judicial Council, which George heads, said 350 new judgeships were needed in the state.  Since then, the Legislature has authorized 100 new judicial positions.  In a 2008 report to the Legislature, the Judicial Council ranked Riverside County the most in need of judges.  A task force the year before had found that 25% of jail inmates in Riverside had been awaiting trial for more than one year, 177 for more than two years, 32 for more than four years and one for more than eight years.

The full ruling in this case is available at this link.

October 26, 2010 at 05:24 PM | Permalink

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Comments

In New Jersey, there would have been endless, crushing, expensive continuances. Their definition of speedy in "speedy trial," is 6 months.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 27, 2010 7:06:14 AM

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6583478.html

Posted by: claudio giusti, italia | Oct 27, 2010 9:44:13 AM

based on this looks to me like a number of people have major ground for a false arrest and illegal detention suit!

"A task force the year before had found that 25% of jail inmates in Riverside had been awaiting trial for more than one year, 177 for more than two years, 32 for more than four years and one for more than eight years."

EIGHT YEARS that's just CRIMINAL i don't care why!

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 27, 2010 3:48:33 PM

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