The 2017 Board of Governors Executive Committee: James M. Morris, past president;
Michael R. Norton, president-elect; Erin Guy Castillo, president; Heather Rubino,
secretary; and Nelson Bahler, treasurer.
The San Joaquin County Bar Association met on November 2 at the Stockton Hilton for its 76th annual meeting.
James M. Morris, the 2016 president of the Association, delivered the State of the Bar Address. Mr. Morris recounted highlights of the Association's activities through this year, including the successes of the Honorable Franklin Stephenson Memorial Scholarship Gala, Law Day, and the Continuing Legal Education Masters Series.
The Honorable Lesley Holland then delivered the annual State of the Court Address. Judge Holland addressed the Court's budget, filing trends, technology, and facilities. He acknowledged that while the county budget for the courts was not in excellent condition, it has improved over the last few years and has now returned to about where it had been before the recession.
With respect to filing trends, Judge Holland observed that felony filings decreased by 18 percent in comparison with the 2015-2016 fiscal year, marking the third year in row that the court has seen a decrease, this one representing a significantly sharper drop than in past years. Meanwhile, misdemeanor filings had increased 19 percent for the same period of time, the third yearly increase in a row. Judge Holland noted that the correlation between these two trends seems to answer the question of the impact of Proposition 47, at least in how crimes are charged. He explained that the biggest effect from these criminal filing trends has been on the arraignment courts.
Other filing trends of note included juvenile filings significantly down over the last five years and a much higher disposition rate, resulting in the number of dispositions exceeded the number of new filings in the most recent fiscal year, which has helped to clear the backlog of juvenile cases. Backlogs in processing both small claims and traffic court cases have also been essentially cleared. Family law case filings remain essentially flat compared to five years ago.
In civil actions, unlimited filings increased year-over-year by five percent and are up in the last two years, although the number of new filings is flat compared versus 10 and five years ago. Judge Holland explained that this trend is why presiding judge José Alva decided to return a fifth judge to the civil bench.
"Judge Holland observed that felony filings decreased by 18 percent in comparison with the 2015-2016 fiscal year, marking the third year in row that the court has seen a decrease, while misdemeanor filings had increased 19 percent for the same period of time, illustrating the impact of Proposition 47."
Probate filings were up 11.5 percent in the most recent fiscal year according to Judge Holland, an increasing trend that will likely continue as baby boomers age.
In terms of technology in the courthouse, Judge Holland reiterated that express check-in for jurors commenced in March 2015, which includes a juror text notification system that was developed in-house. Full Court Enterprise also went live on October 19, 2015. Judge Holland remarked that judges and clerks, especially in high volume courts, have been frustrated with the system as it rolled out.
Judge Holland spent the remainder of his remarks walking the attendees through the changes coming to court facilities. He reminded the audience that the funds to build new courthouses do not come from general fund tax dollars; rather, the money comes from court fees and penalty assessments.
"Dr. Cynthia Ostberg was selected to be the 2017 Law Day Award winner, and Jamie Bossuat was named the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding New Lawyer Award."
After noting that both courtrooms at the Lodi courthouse re-opened in January 2015 and that the extra courtroom at the Juvenile Justice Center opened in the spring of 2015, Judge Holland explained that the court recognizes the need to reopen the Tracy branch and that the project remains in the court's plans. He said that there are issues with funding and that, given the current state of judicial branch finances, the state is unlikely to fund the facility upgrades.
Judge Holland then walked the crowd through a PowerPoint tour of the new Stockton Main Courthouse, which is scheduled to open July 31, 2017. It is roughly ninety percent complete—construction is now addressing the fire marshal's concerns.
The meeting concluded with the recognition of a number of leading attorneys in the county. Mr. Morris introduced the incoming 2017 president, Erin Guy Castillo of Parish Guy Castillo, PLC, and Jamie Bossuat, an attorney with the Kroloff law firm, was honored as recipient of the 2016 Outstanding New Lawyer Award. Dr. Cynthia Ostberg, a professor that heads the University of the Pacific's Pacific Legal Scholars Program, was named the recipient of the 2017 Law Day Award.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Association recognized the 2017 Board of Governors Executive Committee: past president James M. Morris, president Erin Guy Castillo, president-elect Michael R. Norton, secretary Heather Rubino, and treasurer Nelson Bahler.