SACRAMENTO • Mayors Bill Holland of Hesperia and Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre of Barstow visited Sacramento on Tuesday to deliver a message to the Senate Finance Committee.
"During the public comment portion of the meeting, we shared our opposition of (closing) the Barstow courthouse," Holland said Wednesday after returning from the Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing.
Holland said Barstow City Manager Curt Mitchell also made the trip.
"County after county got up and shared about how bad it was for their courthouses," Holland said. "We shared our concern about San Bernardino County being the worst-funded and understaffed county in the state."
During the meeting, Holland explained to the committee that the projected court budget cut of $87.7 million, down from $108.8 million, would place a tremendous burden on the people of the county. Holland said the court system is experiencing an increase in caseload and population.
Holland shared that the county's 91 seated judges are under the allotted 156 and that the court's support staff of 910 is under its allotted 1,512.
It was also revealed during the meeting that despite the projected budget cut and court closures, the county would still experience a $10 million shortfall. This may prompt the closure of the courthouse in Fontana, Holland said.
"For the largest county in the nation, that would leave us courts in San Bernardino, Joshua Tree, Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville," Holland said.
State Treasurer Bill Lockyer took notice after Holland and Hackbarth-McIntyre presented letters from each High Desert mayor, the High Desert Bar Association, the Desert Mountain League of Cities, and mayors from Needles and Big Bear, Holland said
"Lockyer applauded the coming together of the desert mayors in a unified fashion to present our opposition to the court closures," Holland said. "This was the goal of our first mayoral summit that we began last week."
Adelanto Mayor Cari Thomas, who could not attend the meeting, sent a letter on behalf of the city's 32,000 citizens.
"While the immediate Barstow area population is approximately 39,000, the courthouse provides service to the greater part of eastern San Bernardino County," Thomas wrote. "This vast rural community would lose a valuable resource if court hearings are transferred 30 miles away to Victorville."
In the letter, Thomas said people will endure financial hardships as they are forced to travel to Victorville for adult cases, and to the San Bernardino area for juvenile and family court cases.
During Assembly testimony, San Bernardino County Presiding Judge Marsha Slough told the Judiciary Committee that the county "will have five facilities left to service 20,000 square miles and more than 2 million people."
"By May 3, we will have a huge swath of our county that has no court facility," said Slough, mentioning courthouse closures in Chino, Redlands and Twin Peaks, and pending closures in Barstow, Needles and Big Bear.
Rene De La Cruz may be reached at (760) 951-6227 or at RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com.