This year, the George Carroll Courthouse in Richmond saw long-time Richmond Judge Peter Berger retire after 18 years of service to the court. His expertise and wry demeanor are missed, although he has returned periodically to hear matters in Richmond and other courts in Contra Costa County as part of the state’s Assigned Judges Program.
We have welcomed the Court’s two newest judges, Judge Terri Mockler and Judge Judy Johnson. Judge Mockler sat in Richmond for several months after her appointment before moving to Walnut Creek. A long-time public defender in this county, she was well-known to many of us and made a smooth transition to her new role. In June, we welcomed Judge Judy Johnson, a former prosecutor, as well as former Chief Counsel and Executive Director of the State Bar. Judge Johnson was raised in Richmond, and has enjoyed serving in the community with which she is so familiar.
In addition, Judges Patricia (Penny) Scanlon and Christopher Bowen are assigned to Richmond, and Judge Joni Hiramoto has continued to hear juvenile matters. The Court’s workload continues to consist of criminal trials in misdemeanor cases, preliminary hearings in felonies, and various pre-trial proceedings in both felonies and misdemeanors. Jury trials start every Monday and Wednesday, and most commonly concern domestic violence charges, with driving under the influence charges a close second. Preliminary hearings in felony cases range from theft cases to the most serious cases involving criminal street gangs, sexual assaults, and murders.
We continue to operate the Early Disposition Program, which fosters early and efficient resolution of “lower level” felony cases, such as theft offenses, drug possession offenses, and certain property crimes, which are pre-selected by the district attorney for an early disposition.
The public defender then, in the seven days before counsel and plea, meets with the defendant to see if the case can be resolved before preliminary hearing dates are set. The majority of cases in this program are resolved early in the process, helping to relieve court congestion. The Court also hears unlawful detainer cases, domestic violence restraining orders, small claims cases, civil harassment restraining orders, and traffic court. As has been the case for some time, a substantial percentage of the unlawful detainers are post-foreclosure evictions of the homeowner, not traditional landlord-tenant matters. We continue to receive assistance in civil matters from volunteer Temporary Judges, who graciously offer their time and skill when needed. In the past year, that has included Jocelyn Jones Torru, Lorraine Walsh, Barbara Suskind, Robert Kosloff, William Petzel, Robert Kane, Craig Judson, Karine Bohbot, and Gina Boer. Retired Commissioner Steve Easton has also served on occasion. Thanks!
Because of the Court’s new budget, 2013 will bring substantial change to the Richmond Court. (See Judge Kennedy’s article for more detail.) Under new Supervising Judge Leslie Landau, the Richmond court will conduct felony trials. In addition, judges, rather than a commissioner, will hear the civil matters, i.e., small claims, domestic violence cases, and unlawful detainers. Traffic cases will continue to be heard in Richmond, but juvenile matters currently heard in Richmond will be heard in Martinez. In addition to Judge Leslie Landau, Richmond’s judges in 2013 will be Judge Penny Scanlon, Judge Joni Hiramoto, Judge Lewis Davis, and Judge Terri Mockler.
Filed Under: Spotlight