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IE residents upset over court closure

July 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
It won't be long before you may have to drive nearly 150 miles to go to court in one Inland Empire community.The City of Needles is on the far eastern edge of the Inland Empire, at the Arizona border. But despite its remote location, residents don't have to travel far for courtroom matters. It all happens near City Hall.

But that's about to change. Starting September 8th, the courthouse will be closed three out of every four weeks because of the state budget deficit.

That means anyone who has to appear in court will have to go all the way to Barstow, That's a 144 mile drive.

"It's a terrible thing," said Scott Payton, resident."If you get a ticket in the city of Needles, you're going to have to drive over a 100 miles just to pay it."

"Well this is definitely an inconvenience for the residents of the city of Needles, and it's unfortunate. It's also a situation that we are seeing in Big Bear and we may very likely see more courts impacted this way as the economy continues to struggle," said Brad Mitzelfelt, Board of Supervisors.

It's all a way to save the state much needed money. Presiding Judge James McGuire made the decision to do this.

"And we're really aware it's a horrible hardship. So we've tried everything we can to ease the pain, but it's just a decision we're cornered into making, along with every other state department right at the moment," said Judge James McGuire.

But it's not just residents who are affected. What about the deputies and detectives called to testify in court?

"Roundtrips are going to kill us. And as far as the city itself is concerned, our overtime for our police officers to go to Barstow is going to kill us. It's really going to hurt us," said Mayor Jeff Williams, City of Needles.

And what if you're called for jury duty, they say there will be some relief there. We're told residents in the area will be excused. You can serve if you want, it's just going to be a 150 mile drive.

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