San Bernardino Superior Court will focus on expansion of courtrooms, with an improved budget but a heavy court report shortage, Presiding Judge Glenn Yabuno said at his State of the Court address Feb. 16.
Yabuno spoke at the San Bernardino County Bar Association’s Family Law Bench Bar Symposium at the DoubleTree by Hilton in San Bernardino.
The court is short 25 reporters of its 96 authorized positions. The court will repurpose reporters from civil and probate to criminal on Feb. 27.
In some California counties, courts are using electronic recording, instead of legally mandated court reporters, for felony murder trials.
“That’s not permitted. It’s statutorily excluded. But there’s no recourse.” said Yabuno. The Court of Appeal declined to review that case when appealed, Yabuno said.
It used to be that all new judges were former district attorneys. Now, there is a shortage of judges who know criminal law.San Bernardino Superior Presiding Judge R. Glenn Yabuno
The court reporter shortage, said Yabuno, is due to a shortage of schools, California’s high standard certification test, declining interest in the profession and competition from other states and private reporting companies.
There are 45 court reporting schools in the nation, and nine are in California. He said 39 applicants passed California’s court reporting certification test in 2021, with a 21% passing rate. California has the most restrictive court reporting test in the nation, and is the only state that does not validate the certification from other states. Court reporters can earn more money working for a private company, from home, Yabuno said.
The State of the Court address was live-Tweeted by Follow Our Courts. To see the whole speech, follow us at twitter.com/followourcourts.
Fourteen judges, including one announced Feb. 17, have joined the court since Jan. 22, an addition not seen in decades. Yabuno expects the governor to fill another vacancy by the end of the year. The court has five funded judge vacancies currently, with another five expected as judges retire. The court needs 29 more judges until it is adequately staffed.
San Bernardino Superior Judge Marie Moreno Myers is the first new judge in San Bernardino not placed in a rotation of assignments for training purposes. Instead, Yabuno placed her immediately in family law, her specialty as an attorney.
Judicial experiences have shifted away from a criminal background. It used to be that all new judges were former district attorneys. Now, there is a shortage of judges who know criminal law.
Other personnel issues
The court is encouraging its employees to do overtime to go through a civil backlog.
The court is in a blitz of hiring legal processing assistants.
The court is behind family law judgments that are waiting for signatures. There are 1,300 of those pending, with the oldest being from Oct. 13, 2022. There are 260 court orders waiting for signature.
The court is now 91% funded. Typically, the court is only 74% funded. Yabuno said this level of state funding has not been seen in decades. Yabuno predicted another good budget next year, but is uncertain what the budget will look like for fiscal year 2023-24.
The Needles courthouse was reopened to handle family law cases. It is staffed five days a week, and is handling remote proceedings. The court is recruiting for a new judge commissioner to handle cases in the courthouse.
“We will not be in a situation again where we will shut down the courts for a protracted period of time and have all staff leave. That’s just not going to happen. That is, if nothing else, a learned lesson from the pandemic.”San Bernardino Superior Presiding Judge R. Glenn Yabuno
There is a new courtroom in Barstow, which now holds four family law courtrooms. Traffic cases are moved back from Barstow to Victorville.
The court is developing courtrooms in the Historic Courthouse’s annex. Yabuno expects to fill those courtrooms with probate cases by 2024.
The court is opening a new probate department in Fontana in the next 30 days. It will be staffed by San Bernardino Superior Judge Damien Garcia.
There are no available courtrooms in the San Bernardino Justice Center, the Historic Courthouse, Victorville, Barstow. There are two open courtrooms in Fontana, two in Rancho Cucamonga and one in Joshua Tree.
The court will not close again if there is another issue like the COVID-19 pandemic, Yabuno said.
“We will not be in a situation again where we will shut down the courts for a protracted period of time and have all staff leave. That’s just not going to happen. That is, if nothing else, a learned lesson from the pandemic,” Yabuno said.
Every courtroom is Zoom enabled, and the links to each department’s Zoom feed is available here. These links are not always monitored, however, and people interested in attending remotely must submit a request to the court ahead of time.
To attend as a lawyer for civil proceedings, attorneys must submit an RA-010: Notice of Remote Appearance form three days before the hearing. More information for civil appearances is available here.
Attorneys appearing for juvenile dependency hearings must fill out the RA-025 form.
To remotely listen to a hearing through Zoom, people must submit an emailed request to the courthouse five days before the hearing. The request must include the case number, party name, hearing date, hearing time, department number and the requestor’s email address and phone number. More information, including the email addresses for each courthouse, is available here.
The microphones for the electronic audio recording and the Zoom streams are hot microphones placed around the courtroom. Side conversations between counsel and their client might be picked up.
The court now provides remote translators in more dialects than were previously available. Previously, requesting a translator would delay hearings by weeks.
Judge Marie Moreno Myers
Moreno Myers, who was in her second day as a judge, shared her path to the bench after Yabuno’s speech.
She was the youngest of five daughters, and her mother only expected her to complete high school. She was the first-generation college graduate in her family, after graduating from the Slattern School of Business at the University of California, Davis. She started working as a legal secretary when she was 19 years old, and attended paralegal school at the University of California, Riverside, after graduating from Davis. She was a family law paralegal, and went to law school at night while raising a family. She was a certified family law specialist for 18 years before her appointment to the bench.
The event’s sponsors also spoke. Jason Sweetman of Soberlink talked about his company’s breathalyzer, which can be used in family law cases. It uses facial recognition, has a tamper detection system and instantly texts the test results. The company waives the cost if the family meets the income criteria.
Matt Stark of Vimvi said his company offers speedy sales of contested property for probate proceedings. The company has a contractor’s license and manages rehabilitations so that they do not wait for a subcontractor.
Attorney Joyce Holcomb introduced the program. Thirty-three people attended the discussion.