The Lucky One?
Two years ago when I learned I would be Presiding Judge (PJ), everyone expected I would be the “lucky one.” The lucky PJ who would waltz in after the recession and experience a fully-funded court. We dreamed of restoring service cuts, hiring more employees and expanding operations. Oh well. At least for now, that dream will have to wait for another judge.
I still feel fortunate to be PJ at this time. There are so many things to accomplish. The first challenge is to try to make life better for the court’s 300 or so employees. The hardworking men and women who keep our court running have each assumed more responsibilities as their numbers have dwindled; and they have done so without a pay raise in seven years! We have to do all we can to reward their herculean efforts.
Second, we must keep implementing every technological change we can so that we can both improve services and save money. For example, we hope to begin implementation of the long- promised case management system in the next year. As court users, you may or may not notice all the changes but the effect should be streamlined operations as well as savings.
Our funding is now tied to court filings relative to the rest of the state. We need to keep an eye on these statistics so that we can allocate our resources as efficiently as possible. The Great Recession saw tremendous cuts to our court, primarily in the Family Law and Civil Divisions. I hope to restore some of the services to these divisions by efficiencies in other areas.
I am pleased that next year, we will be able to add another judge to the Family Law Division which has seen steady filing increases. With luck, we’ll be able to provide some additional relief to the Civil and Probate Divisions in the years ahead.
Under Presiding Judge Steve Austin’s leadership, we have continued to focus on new technology and the reexamination of existing procedures. I hope to build on these efforts over the next two years.
I am excited to work with local attorneys and the Contra Costa County Bar Association to improve services. We are so fortunate to have a great relationship between the bench and bar in our county. We could not have gotten through these lean times without the efforts of the countless attorneys who have volunteered their services.
So, I am happy to embrace the reality of our situation and to leave the dreams of the future for someone else.