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Riverside courts in legal backlog

August 28, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Since the '80s, the Riverside District Attorney's Office case load grew from 10,000 cases filed to over 60,000. However, now, some say the county is having trouble handling its caseload.For several years there had been a shortage of judges and commissioners to try cases in Riverside County. Since the constitution has a provision for a speedy trial, many facing charges are released.

"Under the constitution, the defendant has a right to go to trial within certain time limits. If they are not brought to a jury trial within those time limits, their case would be dismissed," said Chuck Hughes, Deputy District Attorney for Riverside County. "It's absolutely bothersome. And it does represent a true danger to our community."

"We've had felons ... their cases dismissed. We've had child molestation cases dismissed, armed robberies, domestic violence cases dismissed. So, these are all very serious matters," added Hughes.

The county has 76 judges and commissioners. It is estimated that 57 more are needed.

"We don't have enough judges in Riverside County to hear all of the criminal cases that we have. And the judges that we do have in Riverside County have not been prioritized to hear criminal trials," said Hughes.

Robert Wiley, Riverside County public defender, does not agree with the statement that serious felons have been released.

"Most of the cases that have been dismissed through this problem have been low-grade misdemeanors, where the individuals are not in custody. On those felonies that have been dismissed, the D.A. immediately re-files those charges and those individuals have remained in custody," said Wiley.

"It is definitely a fiscal issue. There are presently seven unfunded judicial positions for Riverside County. Those seven judges alone could try approximately 280 criminal trials in a year. That would more than resolve the dismissal issue," added Wiley.

 

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