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Budget cuts forcing court closures in San Bernardino County

San Bernardino County Superior Court, Big Bear courthouseFacing $22 million in state funding cuts, the San Bernardino County Superior Court plans to shut down courthouses in Needles, Big Bear and Barstow – meaning people living in the high desert could be a three-hour drive from the nearest courthouse.

Presiding Judge Marsha G. Slough said she had little choice given the budget cuts. Even with those courts shuttered, the court still expects to face a $13 million budget shortfall next year.

“Our Court has been operating on a shoestring budget for many years. Now the state is taking away the shoe strings,’’ Judge Larry Allen, the court’s assistant presiding judge, said in a statement released Tuesday.

San Bernardino is the largest county in the contiguous United States, covering more than 20,000 square miles. Victorville will be the closest courthouse to most people now living in the high desert, a a 175-mile drive from Needles and an even longer haul for folks living off the beaten path.

Court officials said San Bernardino also faces the largest shortfall in judges of any county in California, triggering massive caseloads for judges and a growing backlog of cases. Based on a state judicial needs study, the county of more than 2 million should have 156 judges and court
commissioners, they said. Currently, the county has 91.

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--Phil Willon in Riverside

Photo: San Bernardino County Superior Court, Big Bear courthouse. Source: San Bernardino County Superior Court.

 
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