BARSTOW • A new bill that would call for more judges and a funding increase for California's judicial system was introduced to the State Assembly by Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, on Monday.
Assembly Bill 1313 would allocate up to 12 additional judicial positions each year to counties with the greatest disparity between their current number and the Judicial Council's recommendation.
Currently San Bernardino County holds the largest shortfall of judges of any county in the State with a 42 percent disparity, according to a news release from the San Bernardino Superior Court. Based on the Judicial Council's statewide judicial needs study, the court should have approximately 156 judicial officers but currently has 91 — a difference of 65 judges.
"The administration of justice is a core duty of government," Donnelly said. "The Chief Justice of California Tani Cantil-Sakauye has challenged the state to 'reinvest in justice' and AB 1313 does just that."
On Monday, Cantil-Sakauye gave the State of Judiciary Address to California lawmakers in the Legislature. She referenced the two-hour distance a litigant in San Bernardino County is now required to travel to "receive their day in court."
Mirroring Cantil-Sakauye's remarks from Monday, Donnelly listed the taxes a person must incur from traveling longer distances to a courtroom, including having a flexible work schedule, child care and money for gas.
"By the time you're done you might make the decision not to go to court and exercise your civil rights," Donnelly said. "And I have to question whether that's the kind of society we want. I think that's a dangerous situation. I think Martin Luther King said it best, 'When justice is delayed, justice is denied.'"
Donnelly said he expected the bill to be referred to an Assembly committee by Thursday morning or sometime next week, where it would be reviewed. He said advice and counsel of many of the stakeholders in the judicial system prompted him to write the bill.
"Assemblyman Donnelly's introduction of Assembly Bill 1313 is much appreciated, and strongly supports our ongoing efforts to maintain equitable access to the judicial system for the residents of Barstow and our surrounding communities," said Barstow Mayor Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre in a statement.
She said the bill would help correct funding inequalities to the county and "hopefully result in keeping the Barstow Courthouse open."
The courthouse is scheduled to close in May.
Donnelly is one of 25 Republicans in the 80-member Democratic-ruled lower house of the California legislature. He said the issues regarding the State Judicial system are non-partisan. He said California's reputation for "too much government" does not apply to justice.
"I think the bill is going to have a lot of support and I think we have a reasonable amount of interest to get this bill through," he said.
Contact the writer: BSelf@DesertDispatch.com or 760-256-4123.