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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Big changes in store for county courts

Uploaded: Oct 20, 2015
Driven by two major factors, the court system in Alameda County will change significantly over the next two years.
I sat in on a noon-time briefing Monday by Judge Morris Jacobson who will take over as presiding judge in January. He pointed out that the new court house in Dublin, scheduled to open in 2017, will require major adjustments. The current courthouse in Pleasanton has two criminal courts, but most of the criminal cases that go to trial are heard in Oakland or Hayward.
Once the new court house opens within walking distance of Santa Rita County Jail, there will be13 criminal courts located there and the Sheriff's Department will be largely out of the business of transporting inmates to courts elsewhere. That will save a big chunk of operating funds.
The other major driver in the court re-organization is financial. Back in 2008-09, the courts had a budget of about $106 million and 925 employees. This year the system is operating on $82 million with less than 700 employees. Three years ago, Governor Brown set out to equalize court system budgets that varied dramatically across the state. That turned some counties into "€œdonors" to other courts. Alameda County is one of those donors.
The effect of the five-year phase-in will be to eventually reduce the budget in Alameda County to $69 million. As Jacobson put it, there's no debate about the need for change. The debate is what to do.
The plan centers on consolidating court activities at one or two sites in the county. For instance, all of the family court services will be in Hayward, while misdemeanor criminal cases will be heard in Fremont and one other location.
The judge pointed out some startling stats: out of 17,000 misdemeanor cases that were charged by the District Attorney's office, there were just 50 jury trials. He explained that the system has built up to discourage defendants in these minor cases from requesting jury trials in favor of taking a plea deal.
How will this affect the average citizen? Traffic citations are by far the most common way most of us encounter the court system, particularly if we want to challenge a ticket. Doing that in person since 2011 involves going to the Fremont court house where traffic cases are heard.
Once the Dublin court house opens, traffic cases will be held there.
That will be a huge improvement in convenience for both people contesting tickets and the law enforcement officers who cited them. The shift to Fremont has dramatically changed scheduling for Livemore Valley police department who have to send officers to appear.
For Pleasanton or Livermore, a court appearance in a traffic case used to involve an hour or so. Now it's a half a day or more.
The afternoon traffic is so bad over the Sunol Grade that some Pleasanton officers take their motorcycles to court so they can zip between lanes of parked cars on their return.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Oct 21, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

I noticed a number some where the last couple of days, do not recall now where I saw it.

But, revenue from parcel tax that was recently mailed to property owners in Alameda County totaled near three Billion dollars.

Alameda County breaks down the tax dollar as follows:

1. Schools get 41%.
2. Cities get 17%.
3. Redevelopment gets 15%.
4. Special Districts get 12%.
5. County gets 15%.

The Fairgrounds brings in a great deal of revenue from sales.
Pleasanton is not getting that sales tax revenue, and they should.
Example, Good Guys events, motor home sales, etc., that sales tax revenue goes back to the city where the dealer is from, be it out of state, or where ever. That sales tax does not get into Pleasanton's revenue account.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Pleasanton resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 24, 2015 at 12:00 am

Gee, for a minute I thought how smart, finally Alameda Co will get Pleasantonians to participate as jurors. But reading further, nope, guess not. Walking to your parked car or Oakland BART station in 4pm darkness, Nov thru Feb, is not very smart for senior women who would happily serve as jurors IF it was across our road. Nope. They still don't get it, yet claim to want jurors. Sad.
Gov Moonbeam made it so illegals can serve as CA jurors. Last year he also required driver licenses for illegals LOOK the same as ours. Last week he said pretty much anybody can vote too. SO,our uniquely sacred American election process as our Founders intended no longer exists.


 +   16 people like this
Posted by Billie, a resident of Mohr Park,
on Oct 24, 2015 at 12:39 pm

@ Pleasanton resident: "Gov Moonbeam made it so illegals can serve as CA jurors. Last year he also required driver licenses for illegals LOOK the same as ours. Last week he said pretty much anybody can vote too."

Just so there's no confusion, here are the facts.

Jury Duty:
Source: Reuters, US | Mon Oct. 7, 2013, "California governor vetoes jury service for non-citizens" Web Link
"This bill would permit lawful permanent residents who are not citizens to serve on a jury," Governor Jerry Brown said. "I don't think that's right."

AB60 DL Appearance:
Source: Web Link
On the front: "Federal Limits Apply"
On the back: "This card is not acceptable for official federal purposes. This license is issued only as a license to drive a motor vehicle. It does not establish eligibility for employment, voter registration, or public benefits."

Voter Registration:
Source: Los Angeles Times, Oct. 16, 2015, "Here's how California's new voter registration law will work" Web Link

What about people in the country illegally who are able to obtain driver's licenses in California under a law passed in 2013?

[CA Secretary of State] Padilla noted that there is already a separate process for residents in the country illegally to apply for special licenses. Although citizens are currently offered the opportunity to register to vote at the DMV under an earlier federal law, noncitizens are not. That will continue under the new registration process. People applying for the special licenses will not be asked about their eligibility to vote and will not be asked if they’d like to opt out of registration.

â€"We’ve built the protocols and the firewalls to not register people that aren’t eligible,” Padilla said. â€"We’re going to keep those firewalls in place."

As for jury duty a little closer to home, although I've not had a problem going into Oakland on BART for mine, I'm hoping that "[o]nce the new court house opens within walking distance of Santa Rita County Jail, [and] there will be 13 criminal courts located there" jurors from Pleasanton will have a chance to go to Dublin instead.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Billie, a resident of Mohr Park,
on Oct 24, 2015 at 12:44 pm

oops! Should be quotes around the Voter Registration fact that was excerpted from the LA Times article.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Damon, a resident of Foothill Knolls,
on Oct 25, 2015 at 8:54 am

@Billie: ""This bill would permit lawful permanent residents who are not citizens to serve on a jury," Governor Jerry Brown said. "I don't think that's right.""

That's definitely the right call and I didn't believe "Pleasanton Resident"'s wild claim that illegal immigrants can serve as California jurors for a second. If I or any other American citizen is ever put on trial for a serious crime, it's a no-brainer that the jury should consist entirely of US citizens. It would be outrageous to have the guilt or innocence of a US citizen determined by someone who is in this country illegally.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 25, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Billy is quite aware that what was posted is not accurate. how sad...and stupid but predictable...i rest my case...


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Billie, a resident of Mohr Park,
on Oct 25, 2015 at 11:00 pm

What I find sad are anonymous posters presenting as fact information, political or otherwise, they have conjectured, know to be inaccurate, or is flat out untrue. The unfortunate part is that, for whatever reason, there's always someone who will believe them without fact-checking.


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