Good-bye People’s Court.
California - led by a lawyer by the name of Jerry Brown - is just months away from making it impossible for the little guy to seek justice without enriching attorneys.
San Joaquin County judges for all practical purposes made small claims court a moot concept when they eliminated such proceedings earlier this month from their courtrooms in response to the latest state budget cut of $1 million. As a result, the small claims volume that judges will be able to hear is dropping from 3,000 to about 300 on an annual basis. The $1 million cut translated into the laying off of 46 employees in the court system.
The current situation may soon become the good old days. With another $4.4 million in potential cuts looming next fiscal year starting July 1, Presiding Court Robin Appel warns it will probably mean the elimination of small claims court in San Joaquin County.
Sure, you have an option of using the Mediation Center of San Joaquin for $75. But there’s a slight problem. Both parties have to agree to do so. And if you don’t like the decision, you still have the right to go to small claims court. It doesn’t take someone with a juris doctorate to figure out how to game the system on this one. If you are a deadbeat or have no desire to resolve a complaint brought against you that is under the monetary threshold, you simply refuse to go to mediation.
That would leave the plaintiff with only one legal option which is civil court. Of course, that involves hiring an attorney. Not only may it not be worth it, but you may never get your day in court. Civil court cases are slowing down to a crawl right now to make sure judges can devote their attention to more pressing criminal cases.
It is pretty funny if you think about it. There are already a boat load of crimes you can do in San Joaquin County that get you just a citation and skip the inconvenience of a trip to the jail where you’d have to at least post bail to get out.
And given the cutbacks in the district attorney’s office, actually being prosecuted for some low level crimes isn’t guaranteed. And if you do manage to get convicted, you may not spend any time in jail given the fact we are now getting ready to flood county jails with state inmates. Those inmates are being dumped on counties to meet a federal court ruling. This is happening to make sure federal judges can go to bed knowing at least the convicted criminals of America if no one else have 100 percent of their “rights” protected which includes the right to their space. Law-abiding farm workers that pay taxes can sleep 10 to a room in deplorable conditions but convicted criminals can’t sleep in prison gyms.
That means many guilty of obsessive behavior such as serial residential burglaries, stealing cars, shoplifting, and such to make a living will be returning to society ahead of schedule. In California, you don’t go to the big house for property crimes for just one offense or even several. You have to earn it by being a repeat customer of the court system.
This means there will be more criminals out there vying for your property whether it is through bad checks or good old-fashion burglary. You also will be able to continue to enjoy what is essentially non-prosecution of small property crimes in San Joaquin County. Plus now you can’t even use small claims to get justice should someone stick you with a bad check for $75, $100 or even $1,000.
All of this will of course be blamed on the economy by politicians in Sacramento who for decades have expanded the scope of government beyond the basics and bloating the budget simply to appease constituencies so they can keep getting re-elected.
Justice for all is slowly becoming a crock in San Joaquin County and the rest of California for that matter.