Feb 2, 2023
A shortage of judges is causing a number of criminal cases to be dismissed in Riverside County, according to a report from KTLA.
The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that in less than a week, three separate child sexual assault cases have been dismissed.
Those dismissed cases, according to a report from NBC Palm Springs, include:
“In the Garcia case, our office has filed six felony counts pertaining to two underage victims – including charges of rape and oral copulation involving one of the young victims,” a statement from the District Attorney’s Office indicated. “Because there are two different victims in this case, the defendant faces a possible life sentence if convicted as charged.”
KTLA reported that in one of those child sex assault cases, the Riverside County Superior court announced that there were no judges available to hear the trial, but later one judge dismissed the case altogether due to the court’s inability to start the trial within the timeframe required by law.
Furthermore, the Riverside D.A.’s Office confirmed that two additional child abuse cases were never brought to trial – again as a result of judge shortages.
All three of the child sexual assault cases which were brought and then dismissed have since been refiled, according to KTLA.
KTLA also reported that an October statement from the Riverside Superior Court noted a backlog of cases caused by a “chronic shortage of judges.” The statement reportedly addressed how the court was dealing with the issue, but the continued criminal case dismissals – at least 1,500 since October according to the D.A.’s Office – are concerning law enforcement officials.
“You think of the way we lived through the pandemic, and doing Zoom hearings, getting other facilities you can have courtrooms in, or at least hear cases in, anything they could possibly do would assist us in this,” Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzales told KTLA. “Think outside the box. Get a place where we could try these cases so we’re not letting violent people out on the street.”
Some of the cases being dismissed are tied to serious felonies, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin confirmed to KTLA. Hestrin is asking the court to reschedule judge trainings, which he cited as a primary cause of some courtrooms being closed.
“I understand the need for ongoing training, however, when our courts are experiencing a crisis and engaging in the mass dismissal of cases, victims of crimes deserve the right to be the priority,” Hestrin said to KTLA.
“The courts being aware of this shortage of courtrooms should be able to anticipate the needs of public safety and reschedule their training until the courts are fully operational,” Hestrin added.
“Last week, the county Board of Supervisors ordered the Executive Office to review the bases for the mass dismissals and return to the board with a report by mid-March listing real world solutions,” NBC Palm Springs reported.
“Our system of government does not work without a functioning court system,” Supervisor Karen Spiegel said. “This board needs to engage on the issues and find solutions. We’ve been talking about it. Now we have to do something about it.”
The Association of Riverside County Chiefs of Police and Sheriff (ARCCOPS) has called for an immediate end to the dismissals, NBC said.
The breakdown of cases being dismissed in Riverside County is as follows:
In terms of the types of cases being dismissed, NBC Palm Springs confirmed the following:
“The dismissal binge began on October 10. Most of the cases were added to dockets during the public health lockdowns, when courts suspended many operations under emergency orders from the California Office of the Chief Justice,” NBC reported.
As a result of the “dismissal binge,” a backlog of roughly 2,800 cases developed, according to NBC. The chief justice’s orders reportedly expired on October 7, 2022.
In December 2022, a sexual assault case in Riverside Superior Court was dismissed as a result of a failure to assemble enough jurors for the related case to be heard.
The sexual assault case involved Jose Cruz, 27, from Ontario, California. Cruz was set to go to trial over allegations that he “willfully and unlawfully” touched an unidentified victim for the purpose of sexual arousal on October 6, 2021.
“The Riverside County D.A.’s Office announced that Cruz had been formally charged with sexual battery on December 6 – more than one year after the alleged sex crime occurred. He was due to appear in court on December 7, but the case would never be heard. The trial was effectively moot once the charges were dismissed,” Dordulian Law Group noted in a recent blog.
Due to the sexual assault charges against Cruz being dismissed, a standing protective order (also known as a restraining order) was terminated, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office confirmed through KTLA.
“This crisis is unacceptable and only adds to the daily toll of cases being dismissed by the courts,” Riverside County District Attorney Hestrin told KTLA in December 2022.
As a sexual assault survivor, you have rights as well as options under the law. A civil lawsuit can be an avenue for securing damages for a sex crime. Moreover, civil actions can be brought by survivors regardless of whether or not any criminal charges are ever filed by the local District Attorney’s Office.
Some of the damages which may be included in your sexual assault claim include:
Under a new law – California AB 2777 – adult survivors of sexual assault are afforded a three-year window to file claims for any crime which occurred on or after January 1, 2009.
With the passage of AB 2777, the statute of limitations on adult sexual assault crimes is paused, and claims seeking to recover financial damages can be revived. As a result, from January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2026, any adult survivor of sexual assault may file a civil claim in an effort to recover financial compensation against a perpetrator.
To take the first step toward securing justice for your sexual assault, contact the proven and winning attorneys at Dordulian Law Group (DLG) for a free, confidential, and no obligation consultation at 866-GO-SEE-SAM. DLG is headed by Sam Dordulian, a former sex crimes prosecutor in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and member of RAINN’s National Leadership Council. Together with our SAJE Team (Sexual Assault Justice Experts) of experienced professionals, Dordulian has helped survivors secure countless multi-million dollar sex crime settlements.
DLG’s SAJE Team offers you a unique form of expert legal representation which includes a four-tiered 24/7 support network:
Reach out to a member of our team today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM to discuss your sexual assault case.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.