By RENEE SCHIAVONE | Patch.com
An Inland Empire lawmaker’s bill seeking to boost the number of judicial officers in local courthouses and elsewhere in California cleared its first legislative hurdle this week.
Senate Bill 229, sponsored by Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, received a unanimous vote of approval in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bill calls for funding 11 new judgeships to alleviate pressure on the criminal justice system.
“The delivery of justice ... is a critical issue, not only for inland Southern California, but for the entire state,” Roth said. “As California weathered the global economic crisis, it was forced to make drastic cuts to the court system, resulting in costly delays and courtroom closures. Funding these judgeships will begin to reverse the substantial loss incurred by our justice system.”
SB 229 would authorize appropriations for 10 civil and trial court judges, as well as one appellate court judge.
Roth noted that the Legislature several years ago voted in favor of creating 50 judicial positions but never kicked in the funds needed to pay for them. He characterized his bill as taking a “measured approach” to solving the state’s shortage on the bench.
“This is an access to justice issue,” the senator said. “By funding additional judges to meet a critical and growing need, SB 229 is the first step in ensuring justice is delivered in a timely and equitable manner.”
The bill will next undergo vetting by the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
Studies cited by the Riverside County Superior Court Executive Office indicate that, to most effectively address increasing demand for court services countywide -- including timely resolution of civil and criminal maters -- the local court system would need 133 full-time judicial officers, about 40 percent more than are currently active.