Richmond Court Update

If a tree falls in the court’s parking lot, and no one is around to hear it, did it make a sound?
The George D. Carroll Richmond courthouse has been humming with planned (and unplanned) upgrades and events, not the least of these tree-trimming.

And, yes, the falling branches made a sound, and unfortunately caused damage, in May of this year. Two large branches from one of the eucalyptus trees adjoining the parking lot reserved for employees in the Office of the District Attorney tumbled down to earth. Despite damage to two cars, we were fortunate that no one was hurt and we nipped any further problems in the bud by having an arborist evaluate all the trees surrounding our court. The trees were trimmed and we used the incident to branch out to improve our court, making this a productive and busy year in Richmond at the George D. Carroll Courthouse.

It is terrific to be back in Richmond where I worked as a pro-tem traffic commissioner before being appointed, and had my first assignment when I was appointed to the bench in 2007. We have a total of four judges and a terrific commissioner serving our community in Richmond, California. Judge Virginia George began her new assignment on January 31, 2018 and jumped into her first jury trial on February 7, 2018. She has taken to her new role with ease and dedication, and has presided over 19 jury trials thus far. Our other recent appointee, Judge Benjamin Reyes has also taken to his assignment with alacrity and professionalism. Our experienced jurist, Judge David Goldstein, has been helpful keeping our court on a steady keel. Our Traffic, Small Claims, and Unlawful Detainer Commissioner, Terrye Davis, has served our litigants with intelligence, patience and careful consideration of each case before her. She is well respected in our community and by the bench.

We are also fortunate to have Attorneys Philip Andersen, Carolyn Cain, David McDonald, Tod Ratfield, Palvir Shoker and Barbara Suskind volunteer their time to sit pro tem in traffic, small claims and unlawful detainers when Commissioner Davis is not in court. We also have many dedicated mediators: Carol Kingsley, David Demo, Ted Bloyd, Bill Helvestine, Harry Shulman and Oscar Gonzalez de Gallano volunteering their time in small claims as well as civil harassment cases. Everyone at Richmond Court deeply appreciates the generous service of our dedicated and skilled volunteer attorneys and mediators.
Since January 2018, 37 jury trials have been tried to verdict in addition to multiple trials that have been assigned out, but did not reach jury deliberation as they reached a resolution prior to the conclusion of the case.

Like falling trees and leaves, every year brings a change, and we will be losing both Judge Reyes and Judge Goldstein to new assignments in 2019. We are sorry to say goodbye to both judges but are delighted to have an experienced jurist, Judge Judy Johnson coming to the court in January from her assignment in Pittsburg Court. We are hoping the Governor will appoint a new judge soon to fill in the fourth spot on the Richmond bench.

On the administrative end, Ms. Ana Juarez was assigned to the Richmond Court in February 2018 as our dedicated jury clerk and part-time criminal clerk. Ana has endeared herself to all and has been a warm and welcoming presence in the Jury Assembly Room.

We are also extremely pleased to have Shelly Hasson as our Court Manager; she manages our courthouse with efficiency and humor. Shelly has been overseeing many of the recent updates and improvements to our court. These improvements include an updated sound system in every courtroom. We also have installed an electronic calendar system in our lobby called the “AdGator,” which displays the cases, and names of litigants, as well as the assigned courtroom and time of the hearing. The AdGator helps litigants navigate to the correct courtroom without agitation!

Additionally, we have a newly-installed system that allows court users to select the clerk’s office department where they need assistance. The system notifies a clerk to the need, and the clerk, in turn, calls the court customer to assist them. The nifty name for this system is the “QMATIC.” This pragmatic upgrade keeps our customers ecstatic, rather than wanting to give us static!

Our jurors have had several improvements to their environment. The Jury Assembly Room has been expanded to create a lounge area in which tables and connections for laptops enable the jurors to telecommute when not in court. Also, when jurors check in, there is now an electronic kiosk in the room which allows them to scan their badges. The kiosk creates an easy and efficient check-in for our jurors. Finally, new vending machines have been installed for the jurors to get snacks. I am still working on a “kale chips” option, but so far have not convinced anyone that the average juror would buy them!

Despite falling trees, our courthouse is filled with dedicated employees, many of whom have served for decades, demonstrating patience, professionalism and kindness to the individuals who appear in our courts and request their services. Our employees’ kind faces and professional assistance offer reassurance and guidance to the individuals who come here for the first time, not knowing where to go or what will happen. These Richmond Court employees are our shining public servants and I feel fortunate to work with them all. We are looking forward to another year of providing service to the public.