Tuesday, December 24, 2002
Sheriff’s Work Slowdown Lets Up at San Bernardino County Courthouses
By J'AMY PACHECO, Staff Writer
A work slowdown that last week left San Bernardino Superior Court judges scrambling to deal with the delayed arrival of in-custody criminal defendants appeared to be letting up yesterday.
Judge Douglas Fettel, who supervises the Fontana courthouse, said in-custody prisoners arrived only slightly late there yesterday. The arrivals were in sharp contrast to last week’s, when deputies failed to deliver defendants expected in most courts for morning appearances until the afternoon.
The late arrivals stemmed from a work slowdown by deputies who are seeking increased pay and benefits. Jim Erwin, president of the San Bernardino Public Safety Employees Association, was unavailable yesterday for comment.
Fettel said the delays had a significant impact in his courtroom. Because he is hearing a murder trial in the afternoons, the jurist said he was forced to send his late-arriving morning defendants to other courts.
Presiding Judge J. Michael Welch said the action had a “profound effect” on not only the county courts, but on witnesses and attorneys.
“It means the judges and court staffs, witnesses and DA’s have to work later, and matters have to be put over until the next day,” he pointed out.
Welch said he got the impression the deputies wanted to see if the courts would “yell and scream,” but said the courts were “just not going to get involved in a labor dispute.”
Local courts, he pointed out, are already handling “too many cases with too few judges.”
“Every minute, every half-hour, every hour is kind of precious to us,” he said. “All the delay is doing is hurting the public, and very much so. I don’t know if that was their intention.”
He speculated that if defense attorneys argue that their clients are denied due process because of the delay and if judges are forced to grant motions to dismiss, the “net loser” would be the public.
“It is a public safety issue,” he observed.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company