The Changes of 2019
This year has brought many changes to the court and there are more anticipated changes on the horizon.
There are three commissioner seats on our bench and all three current commissioners were sworn in over the last five months. Commissioner Kathleen Murphy retired as did Commissioner Lowell Richards after more than 22 years of service on the bench. Terrye Davis, who served as a commissioner in Walnut Creek and Richmond, was appointed to the Superior Court of Solano County. Our new commissioners are Christine Donovan, Diana Kruze, and Jennifer Lee. In addition, we have three judges who were appointed over the last several months: Linda Lye, Wendy Coats and John Devine.
Soon we will see the loss of two of our more tenured judges, Judge Lois Haight and Judge John Sugiyama. They have served for a combined 43 years. Each has been a leader in her/his respective assignments for years and will be sorely missed by colleagues. Fortunately, we have experienced judges to help fill the void left by these departures. Judge John Kennedy has joined juvenile effective September 16th. Judge Virginia George, who is well-versed and experienced in probate law, will move to Judge Sugiyama’s position early next year.
In terms of staffing and other resources, our court is likely to be negatively impacted by the loss of significant revenues unless the Governor and legislature take swift action. Courts statewide are going to experience a dramatic loss of revenue as a result of the passage of various bills designed to eliminate or dramatically reduce court-imposed fines, fees and assessments. These revenue losses come on the heels of budget cuts implemented by the prior Governor’s administration. Our court has tried to minimize the impact on staff and litigants but, unless additional monies are allocated to the courts to replace the revenue losses, we anticipate having to make very difficult decisions to maintain our current level of operations.
Under Governor Newsom, several courts were granted funds to acquire and implement modern case management systems (CMS). Contra Costa Superior Court was one of the lucky recipients of this special funding and we hope to integrate all court case types into a new CMS in the next few years. We will start with criminal and juvenile first and hope to integrate all other case types by the end of 2021. We look forward to bringing the court into the age of modern technology.