• B U L L E T I N • - San Bernardino County Bar Association

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• B U L L E T I N • - San Bernardino County Bar Association

May 2010www.sbcba.org9Local Courts‘Probably Okay’ forUpcoming Fiscal Year-- JudgeBy J’Amy PachecoThe state budget proposal currentlyon the table in Sacramento was more“genteel” to the judicial branch than lastyear’s, and means San Bernardino courtswill “probably be okay” for the 2010-11budget year, Presiding Judge DouglasElwell said Thursday.“We’ve been prudent, we’ve beencautious, and we’re moving forward,”Elwell said. “I don’t anticipate, at thispoint, having to engage in any layoffs.That’s something that means a great dealto us.”In a state of the courts addressed deliveredduring a civil bench-bar symposiumhosted by the San Bernardino CountyBar Association, the jurist cautioned thatthe situation remains “iffy” until moreconcrete budget numbers develop fromMay revisions between the governor andlegislators.The following year, he opined, looks“pretty grim.”“If this continues for a year or two more,we’re talking about a significant shuttingdown of judicial services in the state ofCalifornia; significant restrictions onaccess to justice,” he warned. “We hope itdoesn’t come to that.”Money for a new San Bernardinocourthouse, however, has been “committedand set aside.” The criminal courthouse, hesaid, is expected to house 36 courtroomson 11 floors, and will cost one-thirdof a billion dollars. Elwell describedit as “a premier courthouse project forCalifornia.”“We expect to have a shovel in the groundin January 2011,” he said. “Construction isexpected to take about two years. Thispresupposes that we do not run into anyspotted toads or pottery shards.” Theproject is currently on schedule and underbudget, he added.Construction on the site, which is nowused for court parking, means parking indowntown San Bernardino “will be a zoo”for several years, Elwell cautioned. Courtofficials are working with the countyto identify spaces that can be used forparking, with off-site, shuttle-servicedlocations being considered.“I’m telling you now, it is going to be aproblem,” he emphasized.Authorization has been granted for acourtroom upgrade project in Chino, wherea third courtroom on the second floor willbe completed for use as a trial courtroom.Elwell said the layout of the room makes itideal for civil trials.A Fontana project adding two newcourtrooms and a new jury assemblyroom is nearing completion, he said.Authorization has been granted for anothercourtroom, which will be designed tohandle high-volume, non-jury matterssuch as traffic, small claims and unlawfuldetainers.That project is expected to be completedin September or October.The seismic retrofit of the historicCentral courthouse should be finished bythe end of this year, he added. The historiccourthouse will ultimately be used forcivil matters only, with the t-wing used forclerical functions and file storage only.The Victorville court, he observed,is “probably the single most impactedcourt we have, particularly with respectto our family law and civil cases.” Courtofficials are currently working with theAdministrative Office of the Court’s realestate services to locate off-site space inVictorville to house some of the court’sfunctions.“Whether or not we’ll accomplish thiswith the budget constraints, I don’t know,”he admitted. “But sometimes if you workhard at it and you’re creative, moneyseems to find a way of appearing.”Elwell lauded the San Bernardino Countycivil bar for working cooperatively to keepcivil cases moving through the courts.Contrasting it with “other counties” thathave had to shutter their civil courtrooms,Elwell credited the collaborative nature ofthe San Bernardino civil bar for avoiding asimilar situation locally.“It’s very much appreciated, and nottaken for granted,” he stated.He cautioned those present that localcivil practitioners need to use due diligenceto ensure payment of extra filing fees oncivil cases.“You are not happy, your clients are nothappy, and we are not happy about theextra filing fees,” he said. “But they haveto be paid.”Elwell said the courts have faced acontinuing battle to collect the fees,and currently have over $3,600 in feesoutstanding due to non-sufficient checks.In the past two years, he added, thoseoutstanding fees have reached as much as$45,000. Elwell said the courts are willingto work with attorneys, but cautioned thatif the situation isn’t resolved, the courtswill consider hiring a collection agencywhich would report to credit reportingagencies as well as the State Bar.“We don’t want to go there,” he said.Reprinted with permission from the SanBernardino Bulletin, a Metropolitan Newspublication.TRUTH VERIFICATIONMICHAEL B. LYNCH, MAPolygraph Examiner Since 1974Member - American Polygraph AssociationPrimary Instructor - APA Accredited SchoolBachelor of Science - Criminal JusticeMaster of Arts - Public AdministrationTwenty years experience in law enforcementü Speciic Issue Criminal and Civil Examinationsü Pre-Trial Quality Control(951) 529-2486mlynch@lawyerspolygraph.comwww.lawyerspolygraph.net

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