Tuesday June 2, 2020
Member/Alternates Only Meeting
Virtual meeting via ZOOM
Present: Deborah Barmack, Peter Barmack, Carole Beswick, Mike Burrows, Rachelle Bussell, Chris Carrillo, Ken Coate, Sandra Cuellar, Louis Goodwin, Otis Greer, Fran Inman, Mark Kaenel, Lowell King, Bill Lemann, Temetry Lindsey, Dan Little, P.T. McEwen, John Mirau, Bansree Parikh, Steve PonTell, Catherine Pritchett, Brian Reider, Thomas Rice, Michael Rivera, Dan Roberts, Dan Schenkel, Kristine Scott, Sol Teh, Lupe Valdez, Pete Van Helden and Ray Wolfe.
Announcements: 1) Photos of members and alternates were again requested for the Inland Action web site directory.
Louis Goodwin presiding.
District Attorney Jason Anderson was elected as the San Bernardino County District Attorney on June 5, 2018. D.A. Anderson gave an update on the District Attorney’s caseload, impacts of the court closures, and how the justice system will be operating in the new COVID-19 work environment.
The courts and associated staff knew immediate steps regarding the COVID-19 virus had to be taken in the second week of March. At that time, they began limiting the court calendars. In the third week of March the District Attorney’s staff of approximately 540 people had to move out of their offices and begin to work from home. This was a very new challenge as the court system requires a good deal of “in person” appearances. Much of case prep and case review can be done at home, but the law is intended to be personal. Attorneys meet with their clients in person, accusers face witnesses, jurors should see the defendant, etc.
Due to the COVID-19 emergency all jury trials were suspended, and the Governor and the California Supreme Court extended the statutory and constitutional time frames that were required prior to the pandemic. The requirement for the District Attorney’s office to review cases was changed from 48 hours to 7 days however, San Bernardino County continued to hold to the shorter time frame. Hearing felony cases went from 10 calendar days to 30 and jury trials were extended to 90 days. Initially there was a big impact as persons already in custody for 15-20 days took priority, but others began to stack up. They currently have 5,600 new cases filed that are being processed now and will likely be heard in the fall and early winter.
There was concern of virus exposure when moving persons in custody from jail to court. Working with the Sheriff’s Department and the defense bar they were able to hold video court hearings. Inmates privately stream with defense attorneys who are at home or in office. Attorneys and defendants individually appear in real time streaming with a judge. In addition to hearings, they have been successful with plea bargains, using split screens, and scanning documents from courtrooms to prisons and back. During this emergency, the use of technology was initially permitted by the State for 30 days but has been extended. Significant litigation in the future is anticipated as some will claim rights were sacrificed with this use of technology and in-custody time was extended.
Of the 50 plus courts in San Bernardino county all but 4 were closed creating a choke hold on the system. They are now gradually re-opening. The Rancho Cucamonga court is now up to 2/3rds of their normal capacity and the San Bernardino Court is up to full strength, as is the Victorville court.
Social distancing is particularly a challenge for jury trials. The 12 member jurors must be 6 feet apart, which can be accommodated by the current courtrooms but will not leave room for the public area. They have reviewed streaming to enable public access to the proceedings, but they must ensure that everyone has equal access which cannot be achieved with the current digital divide. Jury trials in some manner will likely resume in three weeks.
The automatic zero-dollar bail crafted by the California Judicial Council has been challenged by the D.A.’s office. Some criminals treated it as a “get out of jail free card”. Without repercussions for criminal acts recidivism is almost guaranteed and should be expected. Individual case attention was needed, and they have now moved to a discretionary bail system.
In the future they hope they may continue utilizing the technology to streamline the process, consent will be needed from defendants to not physically appear.
D.A. Anderson indicated he would be happy to further update the group in early fall. He genuinely appreciates the coordination and open lines of communication with all departments in San Bernardino County which has made a difficult time easier.
A Q & A period followed.
The speaker was excused.
The members present discussed a budget trailer bill that has been reviewed by the Legislative Committee. The Committee recommends opposing. The proposed bill would adjust Medi-Cal Managed Care rates. The detailed information was sent to the membership via e-mail on Monday, June 1, 2020.
M/S/P: A letter of opposition will be sent to Senator Holly Mitchell with the State Budget Committee.
Assemblyman Ramos requested Inland Action sign onto a letter to the Governor requesting a discussion about protecting small business/COVID-19 liability. A copy of the letter was sent via e-mail to the membership for review on Monday, June 1, 2020. Discussions ensued.
M/S/P: Inland Action supports the Assemblymember’s letter and requests expansion to businesses with more than the 25 employees.
Meeting adjourned at 9:03 a.m.