The articles in this Bench-Bar edition contains reflections on 2012 and the challenging year facing our Judicial Leadership.
Presiding Judge Diana Becton has been a very strong leader, wisely guiding the Court through one of the most difficult financial struggles ever experienced by our branch. Judge Barry Goode has taken a very active role, as has the Court’s Executive Committee, in forming policy and carrying out the critically needed reductions in operations.
Supervising Judges Judy Craddick (Civil), John Kennedy (Criminal), Jill Fannin (Family), Lois Haight (Juvenile), John Sugiyama (Probate), Theresa Canepa (Pittsburg), Ed Weil (Richmond), and William Kolin (Walnut Creek Concord) have each provided their perspectives on the operations of their respective divisions.
Assistant Presiding Judge Barry Goode will assume his two-year term as the Presiding Judge for calendar years 2013 and 2014 on January 1, 2013. In addition, Judge Steve Austin will assume his two-year term as the Assistant Presiding Judge on January 1, 2013.
As you will see in this issue, Judge Goode has made his judicial assignments for 2013 which reflect a reduction of five judicial departments, from 46 to 41 departments. These reductions are the direct result of the devastating budget crisis and resulting $7.1 million in permanent cuts imposed on our court.
The Court opened its new Children’s Waiting Room for court litigants at the Arnason Justice Center in Pittsburg in 2011. Since the Family Law calendars are returning to Martinez in 2013, we are assessing whether we can bring the Children’s Waiting Room to Martinez to better serve litigants. This program is funded solely with dedicated civil filing fees.
The Court’s top level Information Technology Director has been hired and we are developing our Information Technology Plan to assist the Court to implement technology projects that will enhance operational efficiency and help to mitigate the significant loss of staff positions we have experienced. Given the “sweep” of our one-time reserves at the end of fiscal year 2013-14, the Court will need to expedite key technology projects using these depleting one-time funds.
You will find an article in this issue which updates you on the status of implementation of the Criminal Justice Realignment Act of 2011 in our county.
2012 was the fourth full year of significant economic challenges facing the California Judicial Branch and our court in particular. These challenges have left our Court with well over 30 percent loss of staff since fiscal year 2008-09. We were able to weather the budget storm in 2011, due to the Court’s strategic budget approach to painstakingly build our one-time reserve to serve as a safety net for the anticipated budget reductions to follow.
However, this fiscal year’s devastating budget cuts, including the sweeping of a significant portion of our one-time reserves, have left our court in a dire situation as is described in these articles.
Since my arrival to the Court in the fall of 2008, I have been inspired by the very dedicated and hard working managers and staff who provide the critically needed support to the Court. The commitment of our employees to continue to provide exemplary serve to our judicial officers, attorneys, jurors and litigants each day is very much appreciated.
The Court truly appreciates its many strong partnerships with the Contra Costa County Bar Association and members of the local bar which have significantly helped the Court weather the budget storm.