February 12, 2019

West End Open Board Meeting-Judge Virginia Phillips

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Open Board of Directors Meeting

3200 Inland Empire Blvd.
First Floor Media Room
Ontario, CA 91764


Present:   Patti Arlt, Deborah Barmack, Carole Beswick, Ken Coate, Sandra Espadas, Adam Eventov, Louis Goodwin, Jay Jimenez, Mark Kaenel, Lowell King, P.T. McEwen, Vikki Ostermann, Brian Reider, Dan Roberts, Kristine Scott, Paul Shimoff, Steve von Rajcs and Ray Wolfe.

Guests: Peggy Hayes, Boris Medzhibovsky, Judge Mike Sachs and Ruth Stringer 

Announcements: 1) Please contact Carole Beswick if you or your guest are interested in taking a tour of the White House and/or a tour of the Capitol. The White House tours occur at 8 am, with the day TBD. Capitol tours can be arranged with more flexibility of time. 2) The date for the advocacy trip to Sacramento will be Tuesday, April 23, 2019 with the option of arriving on Monday, April 22.  3)  The Washington, D.C. handouts for members participating on the trip will be distributed at the March 5th Inland Action meeting.  The Federal issues are now posted on the Inland Action web site home page under Legislative Forum.  4) Members were asked to review and make suggestions for a web site update.  Please e-mail Carole Beswick. 5) Recognizing that the Inland Empire and the Central Valley of regions of California are underserved, Governor Newsom has asked community leaders from those areas to meet with him next week.  A coalition of the two regions may be created, and Kristine Scott has been invited and will attend.

M/S/P: Minutes from January 29, 2019

Dan Roberts introduced the Honorable Virginia Phillips.

Chief U.S District Judge Virginia A. Phillips’ career as a lawyer and judge has been centered for decades in the Inland area.  She has served as a judge since 1995 and has been chief judge of the Central District of California since 2016.  The district which includes 7 counties (Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo) is the largest in the nation with a combined population of 19.5 million people.

The east division of the District consists of Riverside and San Bernardino counties which are geographically vast and have some 4.4 million residents.  Our courts have 28 authorized judgeships but seven are currently vacant (25%).  The longest of these vacancies’ dates to August 2014, and five of these vacancies have been deemed by the Judicial Conference to be Judicial Emergencies.  Last year 66% of the cases filed in the Eastern Division were reassigned to a judge in Los Angeles or Santa Ana, creating a substantial burden on all parties. Plaintiffs, attorneys, and law enforcement who must travel long distances to those courthouses for hearings and trials incur significant time and expense burdens.  We have unique needs and travel times for people in Southern California are a very different experience than in less populated states, adding to the expense and inconvenience, particularly with most cases lasting numerous days.  Civil cases make up ¾ of the workload and criminal cases the remaining ¼.  In addition to the criminal cases, the East Division averages 50 new civil cases per month, which is not a not sustainable system.

Improvements in technology have been very beneficial.  Electronic case files allow judges access to them at any time.  Video technology, however, has some issues that do not comply with court rules and procedures, in addition to some constitutional issues.

The recent government shut down (35 days) has lasting effects and creates further challenges for the courts and staff.  They have experienced a loss of employees as non-government companies have targeted critical areas such as the courts cyber security and IT personnel.  These companies can not only offer regular paychecks but increased salaries, stability, and benefits.  Recruitment of critical personnel from the courts and other government agencies include the U.S. Marshall’s office (who supply court security) and federal prosecutors.  The impact became even greater when, during the same period, the L.A. Unified School District went on strike.  Another shut down must be avoided.

Long term needs include increasing the number of authorized judgeships.  The number of judgeships has not changed since 1990, although our population, especially in the Inland Empire, has dramatically increased.  If an increase is achieved courtroom space will be an issue. Potential changes in the Riverside Courthouse have been reviewed,  such as moving the bankruptcy court elsewhere and making the needed security upgrades to comply with criminal courts.

Politics has a strong influence with selection of Judges.  Long time Senator Diane Feinstein has a well-rounded system in place that vets applicants.  Senator Kamala Harris has indicated she will coordinate efforts with this established process.

Judge Phillips asked that Inland Action urge the Senate to give full, fair, and prompt consideration to filling the critical vacancies at the Riverside courthouse.

A Q & A period followed.
Meeting Adjourned 8:32 a.m.