Richmond Court 2016

The George D. Carroll Courthouse currently has four judges and one commissioner. The judges include: Hon. Danielle Douglas, Hon. David Goldstein, Hon. Joni Hiramoto and myself. At long last, Judge Goldstein filled the much-anticipated vacancy in December of 2015, and has been a welcome and worthy addition to our branch courthouse.

Recently, Commissioner Peter Fagan announced his imminent departure to assume a commissioner position in San Diego County. Commissioner Fagan has been handling the traffic, unlawful detainer and small claims calendars. We have greatly enjoyed having Commissioner Fagan here, and will sorely miss him. During his 17-month tenure, Commissioner Fagan presided over the high volume calendars and often contentious hearings with patience, dignity and expertise. Commissioner Terrye Davis will replace Commissioner Fagan. She has extensive knowledge and experience, as she has been sitting as a Judge Pro Tem in Solano County for several years. We look forward to her joining us.

Special thanks is extended to the amazing volunteer attorneys who sit pro tem when needed; and to Tom Cain and other volunteer mediators from the Congress of Neutrals who dedicate their time and expertise in resolving many unlawful detainer, small claims and civil harassment matters. Their assistance is immeasurable and invaluable. The majority of matters that are mediated result in settlements, hence reducing the number of cases that must be called during the congested and impacted calendars. In January of this year, Lawyers in the Library expanded to the Richmond Branch, providing further resources to consumers.

On June 17, 2016, the Contra Costa County Public Law Library Board of Trustees voted to rename the Richmond Branch to the David Del Simone Memorial Law Library. David Del Simone was a well-known and beloved attorney who contributed countless hours of his time and energy to the Law Library. Many judges, attorneys, other members of the legal community, as well as family and friends attended the dedication ceremony.

This courthouse continues to be busy. Since January, approximately 42 misdemeanor and two felony trials have taken place. There have been multiple trials that have been assigned out, yet did not conclude due to subsequent resolution both prior to and after a jury being sworn.
The arraignments department is traditionally a bustling place, and continues to have the heaviest calendars. The preliminary hearing calendar has increased since last year, and there is a more consistent volume of cases that proceed to hearing.

There will be some changes in the upcoming year. Beginning mid-January of 2017, I will be transferring to a juvenile assignment in Martinez. Judge Joni Hiramoto will take over as Supervising Judge. Judge Hiramoto has served numerous years off and on at the George D. Carroll Courthouse, and has a strong relationship with and commitment to this community. Judges Douglas and Goldstein will remain at the courthouse as well. Due to upcoming retirements, we will once again have visiting retired judges assigned to the vacant judicial position until the next judicial appointment occurs.

We have been very fortunate to continue to have many wonderful and talented retired judicial officers, such as Peter Berger and Garrett Grant, who have readily and effortlessly conducted trials and preliminary hearings, and handled heavy arraignment calendars.

Certain changes have been made to “modernize” the courthouse. This year, kiosks were installed to facilitate the expeditious and orderly check-in process for the jurors who report for duty. The kiosks have decreased the amount of time jurors need to wait before they are assigned to courtrooms. An electronic calendar has been implemented. Now, court users can easily find courtroom information in a centralized location, thus limiting the potential for confusion regarding which department is hearing a particular matter. Large screen televisions have been mounted in the arraignments department and the traffic/unlawful detainer department which have replaced outdated TV monitors.

It has been an absolute pleasure to have spent the last two years at the George D. Carroll Courthouse. I have been impressed with the wonderful staff that makes this courthouse a very special place to work. Despite the unrelenting amount of cases that are filed, and the accompanying large workload, the staff members are professional, collegial and delightful. Karen Cardinale, the Court Administrator, does an amazing job overseeing the clerk’s office and the daily courthouse administration. Sergeants Paul Murphy and Steve Valkanoff and the deputies provide great security and assistance to the judges, attorneys and numerous parties that appear in court. Lastly, it is important to acknowledge the incredible judges with whom I have worked. Judges Douglas, Goldstein, Hiramoto and Commissioner Fagan have been an awesome team, and each one has a strong dedication to serving the public fairly and judiciously.