State budget cuts lead to September closure of Vista courthouse

State budget cuts lead to September closure of Vista courthouse
The North County Superior Court of California in Vista, which houses the probate court, is slated to close Sept. 2 as a result of state budget cuts. Courtesy photo

COAST CITIES — The probate division of the North County Superior Court in Vista is due to close Sept. 2. 

The shuttering is just the first part of a wave of courthouse closures that will hit San Diego County in upcoming months, said Michael Roddy, executive officer of the San Diego County Superior Courts.

“It’s the start of a significant restructuring brought on by a budget crisis,” Roddy said. “We have no choice. $33 million was cut from courts at the state level.”

In response to $14 million being slashed from San Diego County courts, by June of next year, the county stands to lose six downtown criminal courtrooms, Ramona’s entire courthouse and a juvenile dependency center in Vista, as well as other courtrooms.

“There will be delays at all levels of the courts,” Roddy said. “It will be tougher to get access to a courtroom.”

Even more courthouse closures are possible in 2014, Roddy said. In addition to closures, all court offices will be closed by noon on Fridays.

The cuts also mean about 250 courthouse employees could be laid off over the next two years.

According to Roddy, of the Vista probate court’s eight full-time staff members, four will be let go, one is retiring and three will be transferred downtown, where all probate cases will be heard beginning next month.

Roddy said the Vista probate court handles roughly one-third of probate case traffic, which includes estate and conservatorship matters, in San Diego County. Closing the court will save about $360,000 a year, he added.

Bill Kamenjarin, president and spokesperson of the North County Bar Association, has sought to keep the Vista probate court, as well as courthouses targeted for closure, open.

He said the entire county will be negatively impacted by the court closures.

“Unfortunately this falls most heavily on senior citizens,” Kamenjarin said.

Several weeks ago, Kamenjarin addressed the Vista probate court closure in a letter to Roddy and Robert Trentacosta, presiding judge of the San Diego County Superior Courts.

“Again, any given Friday reveals the frailest and oldest of our citizens, citizens who are looking to the court to protect them and what are often their meager resources from the ravages of both time and, unfortunately, greed,” wrote Kamenjarin in the letter.

Kamenjarin has said the county could prevent more courthouse closures if it took a harder look at cost-saving measures like increasing telecourt hours and generating revenue by focusing on taking in long-overdue court collections.

“The public’s suggestions haven’t been noted,” Kamenjarin said. “They’ve been left out.”

Citizens can comment on the closures at sdcourt.ca.gov.

Kamenjarin urged those who are concerned with the closures to also speak with their local and state representatives.

Robert Dieringer, associate attorney at the San Diego Elder Law Center in San Diego, said many lawyers who practice in North County will be greatly affected by the Vista probate court closure.

But San Diego probate lawyers will feel the closure, too, he said.

“More caseloads being transferred downtown translates to more delays for us,” Dieringer said.

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  1. jennifer grant says:

    Dear Mr. Whitlock:

    Unfortunately there is a side to the Vista Probate Court that unsuspecting members of he public are unaware of. Stories of destroyed or missing documents, important case documents going unread which leads to judgements with out the full facts of the case being known have occurred, unchecked mistreatment of pro-per litigants by bullying attorneys and other travesties have gone on behind the scenes. Please read:

    The Comments at
    http://www.nctimes.com/news/local/columnists/sherman/sherman-planned-court-closures-cause-angst/article_d77d13e3-c42b-5753-b91b-e4e3280d5cf0.html#comments

    The Rating comments at http://www.therobingroom.com/california/Judge.aspx?id=3311 (the very bottom comment by “Civil Litigation” is not about my case, but it shows someone else was also upset by events in Vista probate court even if they expressed it in an abusive fashion).

    The story AND comments at http://learningboosters.blogspot.com/2012/05/judge-richard-cline-opposes-putting.html:

    The comments at
    http://rolemodellawyers.blogspot.com/2012/06/vista-students-get-taste-of-justice.html

    As one of the litigants whose case is described, I encourge the public and North County Bar membergs to obtain the documents and exhibits from my case, read all party’s documents and the motion ruling and look at all case exhibits. Afterwards I would like your opinon: Is such conduct ethical? Would you want Vista Probate to stay in North County given these circumstances if you were me? Anyone intersted can call me at 310-454-0899 for information on which registry number corresponds to the documents mentioned in the web links for more easy access since there are 146 registy entries. Some documents are not yet entered into evidence but I am willing to release some of those at this time.

    The North County Bar has made a stong stand against the closure. As can be seen in the comment section at the link below, I have addressed my concerns to their president, Mr. Kamenharen in the comment section of the article concerning the closure as published in the North County Times Forum but received no response. You may view the articles and comments at http://www.nctimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/forum-don-t-close-vista-probate-court/article_f9a49d61-a96e-5d8c-91b9-12b9af874de1.html?mode=comments

    What concerns me is that North County Bar alliances and associations are circumstancially appearing to run deeper than ethics. A blog commentator pointed out that during the mid 2000′s Mr. Kamenjarin served as co-vice president of the Bar with Constance Larsen and Rusty Grant whose lack of ethics is recounted in detail on the websites. This is possibly the reason no response has been forth coming nor disciplinary action taken as well as the fact Mr. MacGurn, whose client has been greatly aided by some of the events that have gone on, also has deep ties to the Bar.. By all apparent cirucumstances, it appears that Vista Probate judges and the North County Bar are willing to overlook holding favored associates accountable for adhering to professional standards despite the utilization of appropriate legal means. When that happens, innocent people are hurt and left without recourse. I and some of the other litigants will be better served downtown where we can only hope matters are handled differntly.

    What is unfortunate is that I do believe there are attorneys who care about their professional standards. Their practices will be put at a disadvantage. Court personnel that do not participate in unethical conduct or overlook breeches of ethics will lose their jobs. However, this should be a wake-up call to the Bar and remaining departments at Vist court to stand up against what is wrong, even if it means discipling one of their own.

    As for people who would have transportation difficulties, if the closure goes through, I would challenge attorneys to consider offering complementary transportation to and from court to their clients in whatever form could be creatively worked out. It is one way to give back to those they serve and is more pertinent than putting on events like magic shows. The internal rewards of giving to those who need it always are more satisfying than any that come from what is gained in billable income. I would encourge other charitable organizations to come to the seniors aid and support ethical attorneys in this endeavor.

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