2013 Budget Cuts Bring Big Changes To The San Bernardino Courts
If you didn’t already know, the State of California is in a terrible fiscal crisis. What is even worse, is that the legislators that are controlling the money of the State don’t know how to manage their resources and place them were they are going to be the most effective for the people of the State of California. As a result, the judicial system over several years has taken a dramatic hit and will continue to suffer financial cutbacks as money is diverted from public safety and public justice into social welfare and pet projects of those controlling the purse strings of California’s taxes.
The County of San Bernardino and its residents will suffer significant losses in public justice benefits starting in January 2013. Here is a fact check. The County of San Bernardino is the largest county, by square miles, in the contiguous 48 states. Its people extend from the state line with Nevada and Arizona, west this its border with the Los Angeles County line. The majority of the people are found in the southwest portion of the County, but many live in the high desert and mountains of the county. In previous years, the courts of the County of San Bernardino were found from Needles to the east to Chino to the west. Civil courts were located in Barstow, Victorville, Big Bear, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, San Bernardino and in years past in several other smaller outlying courts. The convenience of having a civil court in close proximity to where you lived is now over. Frankly, the day when a courthouse will return to a smaller community is likely gone forever.
Starting in 2013, the San Bernardino County court system is being scaled back so much that many of the courts will no longer exist and all of the civil cases, those that handle personal injury claims, business disputes, construction matters and many other civil cases will only be handled in two courts, for the entire county, Rancho Cucamonga and San Bernardino. It was announced by the San Bernardino County Courts that its funding this year (2013) had been cut once again, this time by another $22 million. This is after they lost funding for the last several years and after their reserve funds were taken from them by others within the judicial system. Because of these budget cuts the following cost cutting measures were taken to prevent the courts from operating in the red:
1. The Chino Courthouse is closed as of January 1, 2013;
2. Three experienced judges were released as of December 31, 2012;
3. Reduced administrative staff and reduced court clerk’s office hours;
4. By May 6, 2013, Barstow will lose its four courtrooms that addressed all the judicial needs of those residents, 22 jobs will be cut as a result of the closure;
6. Civil, juvenile delinquency cases and dependency drug court will be eliminated from the services rendered at the Victorville District Court;
7. Court reporters will no longer be assigned to a courtroom but will be put in a pool and be assigned on an as needed basis for civil law and motion and civil trials. (In Los Angeles County, court reporters have been eliminated altogether and you have to bring your own if you want a court transcript of the hearing or trial.)
8. All Small Claims and Unlawful Detainer (evictions) matters formerly heard in Rancho Cucamonga and in San Bernardino will now be solely heard in Fontana.
9. There will be no more night court;
10. There is one less civil courtroom in Rancho Cucamonga.
What do all these changes mean to the residents of San Bernardino County? For starters, it means:
1. Longer lines at the remaining courthouses;
2. Longer distances to travel for those who live in outlying areas of the County of San Bernardino;
3. Greater delays in getting your case heard by the judge;
4. More cases on the daily calendars creating increased wasted time in court;
5. Jurors having to travel greater distances thereby creating financial hardships;
6. The cost of getting your case to trial will increase;
7. Slower processing of your paperwork with fewer staff members;
8. Increased costs of hiring lawyers in Victorville and Barstow for matters now heard in Rancho Cucamonga or San Bernardino;
9. Greater uncertainty as to when a case will start for trial because of the increased number of cases that will need to be tried in the fewer courtrooms now available.
10. Less justice for those who can least afford to pay the increased price of protecting their legal rights in the distant courthouses.
Prior to these budget cuts and slashing of services, the County of San Bernardino courts were operating on a 65 judge shortfall from where they should be positioned with the number of citizens in San Bernardino County and the number of cases handled by the present judges. To put it in perspective, the County of San Bernardino is operating at 58% capacity. Even after all these cuts, the County Courts still do not have a balanced budget. This means there are still more cuts and loses in services yet to be announced.
With all this bleak news for the judicial system in the County of San Bernardino, what can you do to stretch your litigation dollar or find justice for your case? Here are some ideas as to how you can reduce your costs and increase the likelihood you will see justice for your case:
1. Hire an excellent attorney that pays attention and attempts to minimize the cost being passed on to you. A cost conscious attorney tries to stretch your dollar as far a possible while seeking a proper result for you.
2. Hire an attorney who is located near, or a short distance, from the operating civil courthouses. By reducing your attorney’s travel time, you reduce the cost of paying for your lawyer to drive from office to courthouse.
3. Hire an experienced attorney so you are paying for experience and not for the attorney’s learning curve. Many cases require research, but if those research hours are reduced, the cost savings is passed on to the client.
4. Be attentive to the hourly rates being charged and how those rates are billed. Question improper charges or charges that seem excessive. Find out how those charges benefitted your case.
5. Look for an attorney who uses technology and efficiencies in handling your case, then pass those savings on to you.
6. Engage legal counsel who understands how to settle cases for your best recovery.
7. Find an attorney who can handle arbitration and mediation since so many cases will now be taken out of the court system and handled privately.
David H. Ricks & Associates is an excellent choice for your business and personal injury litigation matters. The firm is located in Rancho Cucamonga minutes from the Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court. David H. Ricks has been an attorney handling litigation and personal injury matters since 1987 and has successfully handled thousands of claims. He has tried many cases to verdict and judgment, as well as, arbitrated and mediated many more to their successful conclusion. Finally, while litigation is never cheap, there are ways to effectively and economically move a case along without bankrupting the client along the way. David H. Ricks & Associates uses technology to eliminate unnecessary trips to the courthouse and to communicate with clients thereby reducing the overall cost of litigation.
If you are concerned about how these budget cuts might affect your case, or want to find a lawyer who can partner with you in working through the judicial system, call David H. Ricks & Associates and see if they can help you with your legal matter. Call 909-481-0100 to set an appointment and meet with an experienced attorney to get straightforward answers and honest opinions.