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Staff photo, Shea Johnson
A woman enters the Barstow courthouse on Tuesday, the same day it was announced the courthouse would close in May.

Barstow courthouse to close in May

22 jobs will be cut

Staff Writer

BARSTOW • Citing financial woes, the San Bernardino Superior Court announced on Tuesday that the Barstow courthouse will close May 6.

The notice is part of the county court’s second phase of cost reduction measures and comes amid projections of a deficit next year that could exceed $13 million, according to a press release.

“We are extremely disappointed to hear this news,” Mayor Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre said, “as we had hoped that there would be no service impact to our community while the county court system worked to resolve their ongoing financial issues.”

San Bernardino County Presiding Judge Marsha G. Slough admitted it was “a very dark day for our courts,” but maintained that the court took “a very measured — a very reasonable response to this financial situation we find ourselves in.”

The plan, as it stands, is to consolidate Barstow’s limited and unlimited civil cases into either of two locations down the hill — San Bernardino or Rancho Cucamonga, according to Mary Davis, chief deputy executive officer with the county court. Small claims and landlord/tenant issues will be heard in Victorville.

In addition, criminal and family cases will also be heard in Victorville, though Davis noted there may be tweaks dependent on judges’ workloads.

The closure of the courthouse will mean a longer drive with limited public transportation for Barstow residents. It will also mean the loss of 22 current jobs at the courthouse.

Davis said they’ll meet with each employee in January to let them know what their options are. Some will be reassigned, while opportunities may exist for others in different positions.

Barstow wasn’t the only announced closing. Courthouses in Needles and Big Bear will close too, as the County court continues to battle financial challenges.

“Our court has been operating on a shoestring budget for many years,” said Judge Larry Allen, the court’s Assistant Presiding Judge, in the press release. “Now the state is taking away the shoe strings.”

When asked about the financial landscape that would make a re-opening of the Barstow courthouse possible, Slough said it would take a recognition that the county needs more resources.

“San Bernardino is one of the most under-resourced courts in the state, and has been outspoken at the state level regarding the impact of cuts upon the state’s poorest courts and their communities,” according to the press release.

Per the press release, the court was provided approximately $22 million less in state funding this year.

Public Defender Phyllis Morris said her office plans to remain present in Barstow on a part-time basis despite the announced courthouse closing. Her office currently has one public defender who travels to Needles on a part-time basis, as well.

Hackbarth-McIntyre said the city will be actively working with county and state representatives in “an effort to restore funding to the county court system,” noting an unfairness in funding distribution.

“As is the case with many other state funding mechanisms, there exists an inequitable allocation of court system resources when comparing metropolitan areas with the Inland Empire,” she said. “Here in Barstow, we firmly believe that the distribution of dollars for the state court system should be handled in a more equitable manner.”

In June, potential closure of the Barstow courthouse was first mentioned by county court officials, but the courthouse had been spared when a round of cuts were announced the following month.

— Staff writer Tomoya Shimura contributed to this report.

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