October 25, 2010 12:55 pm Published by

Defendants are benefiting from California’s budget crisis. On Monday, in a unanimous ruling, the California Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of 18 criminal cases in Riverside county because there were not enough judges to hear them. Out of those 18, three were felonies. An additional 300 cases had been dismissed for lack of judges and were on appeal. The court blames the state’s failure to hire more judges.

The defendants declined to waive their rights to a speedy trial, forcing a trial judge to dismiss the charges bc there were no courtrooms available. Chief Justice Ronald M. George, writing for the court, said Riverside County’s “congested criminal caseload represented a chronic” problem. “The lack of available courtrooms and judges was attributable to the Legislature’s failure to provide a number of judges and courtrooms sufficient to meet the rapidly growing population in Riverside County,” wrote George.

The Riverside county prosecutors challenged the dismissal, arguing that the court should have made every judge in the court available for the cases. “The courts are just overwhelmed by both the exponential growth in population and by some extent to the district attorney’s charging policy,”County Deputy Public Defender William A. Meronek said. “They tend to pursue everything, and they are reluctant to plea bargain or negotiate any settlement.”

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