REMARKS FROM THE PRESIDENT’S DESK
By: Will Wooten, Esq.
Courthouses in San Bernardino County are once again open for business, but it’s definitely not business as usual. Far from it. Social distancing and face coverings are still required, and business casual attire is allowed for attorneys making court appearances. (It sure is nice being able to appear in court wearing a polo shirt and Dockers instead of the traditional stuffy suit. I, for one, don’t miss having to wear a tie around my neck all day!)
Another change in the way we conduct business in court pertains to the way we handle settlement negotiations. Safety precautions attempting to prevent the spread of the Corona virus are being utilized. For instance, at the Rancho Cucamonga courthouse, the seating area inside the first-floor café has been secured and prosecutors use this area to conduct pretrial negotiations with defense attorneys. Misdemeanor out-of-custody defendants don’t even have to step inside the courthouse to have their cases heard. They simply check in at tables set up outside the courthouse and then they wait patiently outside until their attorneys come out with news regarding their settlement negotiations with prosecutors.
A few judges have gone the extra mile and started handling their court cases outside the courthouse. This would have been unimaginable just a few months ago. Judge Ingrid Uhler, who is a well-respected, experienced judge at the Rancho Cucamonga courthouse, held her Shelter Court cases outside the courthouse building on June 26, 2020, and I was informed that there were approximately 400 hearings scheduled for that day. This was an excellent way to utilize social distancing by allowing people to remain outside the courthouse at least 6 feet apart, and not clog up the courthouse elevators and hallways with hundreds of people waiting for their cases to be heard. I applaud Judge Uhler and all other judges who do whatever is necessary to keep the court process moving forward in these trying times.
A huge number of hearings that were continued as a result of court closures have now been rescheduled. Thousands of new criminal complaints were initiated during the court closure and forwarded to the court clerk’s office to be filed. Now, court clerks have been tasked with having to input all those cases into the court system.
During the week of June 22-26, 2020, the court in Rancho Cucamonga scheduled 4,000 misdemeanor arraignments. That’s 800 cases set for arraignment hearings each day during that week! That sounds like a lot, but the reality is that only a small fraction of the defendants scheduled for arraignment would actually appear at court for their arraignment. Most of them end up in warrant status.
On a different note, I was delighted and honored to be invited to say a few words about the Western San Bernardino County Bar Association during the University of La Verne College of Law’s Virtual Swearing-In Ceremony that was held on June 4, 2020. Judge Lisa Rogan, an alumni of the La Verne College of Law, swore in the recent law school graduates and welcomed these new attorneys into our profession. I again wish all our newly admitted attorneys long and happy careers in whatever areas of law they choose to practice, and I hope that many of them will join our Bar Association.
I hope the coming months bring better times for everyone, and I look forward to getting past this COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, we experienced some terrible events across the country the past month. Lives were lost and people were injured for no valid reason. Businesses were looted and burned to the ground. Social distancing was set aside as large crowds gathered in protest. Hopefully, peace and calm will prevail, and people will get back to work and back to being responsible human beings. Just like 2 lawyers on opposing sides, we don’t always have to agree on everything, but we should at least be civil to one another and strive to be decent human beings.
Professional tennis player Serena Williams posted the following:
“I’m sick of COVID-19. I’m sick of black vs. white. I’m sick of Democrats vs. Republicans. I’m sick of gay vs. straight. I’m sick of Christians vs. atheists. I’m REALLY sick of the media. I’m sick of no one being allowed to think what they want & feel what they do without offending someone. I am sick of the nosey [sic] people who call the cops when anyone does anything they don’t approve of. I am sick of blaming the whole for the sins of a few.
We’re one race—the human race. You want to support President Trump? You do you. It’s your choice. You want to support Biden? Fine…also your choice! You want to believe in God? Okay, believe in God. You want to believe in magical creatures that fly around & sprinkle fairy dust to make life better? Awesome… you do you.
BUT stop thrusting your beliefs on others & not being able to deal with the fact that they don’t have the same exact mind-set as you. Having our own minds is what makes us all individual and beautiful. If you can’t handle the fact that you may have a friend that has opposing views as you, then you are not any better than the bigots and the racists. I don’t have to agree with everything you believe to be a decent human being & your friend.”
Stay safe and be kind to one another.