(March 7) In September 2012, Judge Marsha Slough succeeded to what might have otherwise been considered the apex of her judicial career when she was elevated from the position of assistant presiding judge to replace Ronald M. Christianson as the presiding judge of the San Bernardino Superior Court.
That crowning achievement, while no doubt an honor and tribute to her and the esteem she is held in by her fellow jurists, came at a most unfortunate juncture.
Even before the economic downturn of 2007, the court system in California was inadequately funded and San Bernardino County’s courts were particularly lacking in both financial and human resources. When Slough became presiding judge five years later, San Bernardino County had the most substantial shortfall of judges of any of California’s 58 counties, with 91 jurists serving a population of over 2 million residents. That was 65 fewer than the 156 judges the state of California’s Judicial Needs Assessment said San Bernardino County should have. As one of those overworked judges, Slough was more than conscious of the massive caseloads and mounting backlog of cases she and other members of the bench were staggering under.
Immediately upon being chosen to fill the presiding position, Slough was buffeted by further cuts.
Judge Larry Allen, the assistant presiding judge, in late 2012 summed it up this way: “Our court has been operating on a shoestring budget for many years. Now the state is taking away the shoestrings.’’
Slough, Allen and then-court executive officer Stephen Nash huddled and came up with a painful but nonetheless necessary strategy to meet the challenge, which involved $22 million in further state funding cuts for 2012-13 to be followed by another $13 million in funding reductions in 2013-14. In a series of moves, Slough shut down the Chino Courthouse, which served residents in the southwestern portion of the county, the Needles Courthouse, which served the northeastern portion of the county, the Barstow Courthouse, serving the northernmost portions of the county and the Big Bear Courthouse, which served the San Bernardino Mountain Communities.
Those economies saddled county residents with an immense burden. Far flung San Bernardino County, which spans more than 20,000 square miles, is the largest county in the lower 48 states, with a land mass greater than the states of Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Connecticut combined.
The Joseph Campbell Courthouse in Victorville was the closest courthouse to most people living in the High Desert, and residents in the communities of Trona and Needles were obliged to make round trips of nearly 200 miles to obtain justice. After a massive protest, the Barstow Courthouse was opened one day each week, with a single judge there hearing cases.
A year-and-a-half into her tenure as presiding judge, Slough is on the verge of yet another response to the financial challenge to the county court system. This response is of such scope that it is being billed as a “realignment.” The terms of the change are so sweeping and in the phraseology of some so “radical” that the move is one that has garnered virtually no support of attorneys, who are traditionally highly accommodating of the forum within which they must function.
While the general public is virtually unaware of the coming changes, Slough’s tentative announcement of the pending changes last October sent shock waves through the legal community. Echoing outrage grew into a deafening crescendo last month when Slough through her office gave official notice that the realignment would indeed go into effect in May.
The makeover will include transferring all civil cases countywide to the new San Bernardino Justice Center, an eleven story edifice with 40 courtrooms now in the final stages of completion. In addition, San Bernardino district criminal cases, now being heard in the San Bernardino Central Courthouse built in 1927, will be tried in the new San Bernardino Justice Center.
West Valley Superior Courthouse in Rancho Cucamonga, which currently is the venue for both civil and criminal cases originating on the west end of the county, will be devoted primarily to criminal cases, including those arising on the county’s west end and other felony and misdemeanor cases from the county’s central district which are currently routed to the Fontana Courthouse. A small portion of the criminal cases now heard in Fontana will be adjudicated in San Bernardino. At least temporarily, hearings on both civil and domestic violence restraining order matters will be heard at the Rancho Cucamonga Courthouse.
The historic San Bernardino Courthouse will remain as the forum for the family law cases it currently hosts and will soon serve as the venue for the family law cases presently heard in Rancho Cucamonga.
The Fontana Courthouse will become the stage for all small claims, landlord tenant disputes and traffic/non-traffic infractions from the San Bernardino, Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga districts. The lion’s share of criminal cases now being heard in Fontana will transfer to Rancho Cucamonga. A lesser number of the Fontana criminal cases will go to San Bernardino.
The Victorville Courthouse will remain a venue for High Desert family law cases.
David H. Ricks, the president-elect of the Western San Bernardino County Bar Association, spoke to the Sentinel in his capacity as a private attorney and citizen, making clear that he was not representing with his comments the Western San Bernardino County Bar Association, which he said has not officially committed to publicly opposing the realignment as an organization. Ricks said virtually every attorney he has discussed the realignment with is adamantly opposed to it.
“I had a meeting with [then-county court executive officer] Stephen Nash and Judge Slough, who are the architects of this whole thing,” Ricks said. “I asked point blank ‘What is the financial benefit to be realized?’ The presiding judge said in essence that there is none. That is not the purpose of this. It is a convenience maneuver to address the use of judges and court reporters. This is intended to consolidate the court clerk’s office for efficiency purposes.”
Ricks said, “Their position is this is not a matter of cost. It is a matter of convenience to the courts and the ability to move people around as well as the ideal with regard to the movement of prisoners. The Rancho Cucamonga Courthouse and the new San Bernardino Courts are situated atop holding facilities and they are designed for moving detainees in and around the courthouse. They have elevators that can go unmanned between floors and have hallways that are not exposed to the public or the judges. One justification for doing this is that in Fontana where there are currently a lot of criminal matters handled, the prisoners have to be walked with bailiffs and sheriff’s deputies as escorts. There is no secure hallway there to move prisoners. This is not going to result in any appreciable cost savings, nor did they do a study to see if cost saving would be obtained.”
Ricks continued, “On the weekend in October before I learned about this, there was a meeting between Judge Slough and the western San Bernardino County judges. I talked with several of the other judges just as what was going to happen was announced. It was a surprise to them. There had been no information about it or discussion prior to that morning. There was no consultation with any bar organization or any local government agency. The cities did not know about this until it was announced and officially decided that it was going to be done [Board of supervisors chairwoman] Janice Rutherford did not know until it was announced. Members of the board of supervisors then had asked that the courts not to do this and were basically told it will happen and that is the way it is.”
One of Ricks’ predecessors as Western San Bernardino County Bar Association president, Jim Banks, told the Sentinel, “The only savings that result from realignment are saving administrative headaches allocating clerks, court reporters and other court personnel. The truth is that for every judge you need a clerk, usually a bailiff and often a court reporter, regardless of whether they are in one building or three. Civil court reporters are charged to the litigants. Some clerks and research attorneys may be more conveniently located among all of the judges in one building, but each of them will be on the court payroll whether they are sitting in San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville. Realignment, therefore, is not a solution to the budget shortfall. It is little more than an attempt to make the court easier to manage. The problem is that while it makes court management a little bit easier and possibly a little bit cheaper, it has disastrous consequences for the public, the litigants and attorneys in Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville.”
Banks continued, “The elderly, poor and other disadvantaged persons may not be able to get to court at all. Even if they can afford the transportation, the trip will be exhausting and they will be in a strange place, exhausted, frightened, weakened and confused. Fewer people will be able to afford to go to court because it will cost more for litigants due to travel time for witnesses, experts, attorneys and others.”
Banks said the city of San Bernardino is not equipped to handle the influx of both civil litigants and jurors. “Jurors, from Needles to Chino Hills, will be expected to travel to San Bernardino, find a parking place because they’re not furnished by the court, move their cars from time to time, walk several blocks through the streets of San Bernardino, sit and wait or serve, then hike back to their cars and drive back home. Presumably their outcry will be swift and loud. For that reason alone, realignment is a disastrous alternative.”
While Banks said the realignment would hurt county residents, he pointed out that at least one public entity, the city of Rancho Cucamonga, would suffer significantly as a consequence of the concentration of criminal cases in the courthouse there.
Banks said the Rancho Cucamonga Courthouse will become “a magnet for criminals of every stripe imaginable. What is the prognosis for the beautiful Rancho Cucamonga Civic Center and its surrounding neighborhood? Most experts (Realtors, lawyers) agree that it will be turned into a campground for all sorts of accused criminals including gang members, drug dealers, child molesters, rapists, other violent offenders and their friends and relatives, all collected from Chino to Rialto and concentrated in one courthouse. Attorney offices will be replaced by bail bondsmen. The buildings and other improvements will be subjected to excessive vandalism and eventually fall into a state of disrepair. The civic center will be converted from a beautiful and peaceful environment to an ugly and dangerous neighborhood.”
Sal Briguglio, who has worked as an attorney in San Bernardino County for more than three decades and has had an office in Rancho Cucamonga for most of that time, told the Sentinel, “I have multiple concerns, the first of which is how people without a vehicle are going to reasonably get to the new courthouse. We checked the bus system. To take a bus from Rancho Cucamonga, you have to take two busses. The first has 27 stops to get you to the middle of Fontana. You then pick up a second bus, which after 31 more stops will take you into San Bernardino. You then have to walk a half mile to get to the courthouse. If you are coming from Chino or Chino Hills, you have to take four busses or you can take a bus to the MetroLink, which will dump you a half mile from the courthouse. If you live in Barstow and don’t have a car, there is no bus service to Victorville. You have to hitchhike.”
Briguglio said the concentration of civil cases in San Bernardino was going to precipitate a logistical nightmare for litigants, their lawyers and witnesses.
“The new court building has no public parking,” Briguglio said. “It was built with only 200 parking spaces. They have not thought out what this means in practical terms. Where are the attorneys. litigants and jurors going to park? When you get three blocks past the courthouse you are in a high crime residential area. You have to leave your car there and hope it is there when you get back. To get to the courthouse you will then have to walk through a very rough neighborhood. You will not be able to take anything with you to protect yourself such as mace because you are not allowed to bring that into the courthouse. Safety accommodations have been made inside the building but the safety issues outside the courthouse have not been addressed.”
Briguglio said the state and local officials are to be commended for having done something – in this case constructing the new courthouse – to overcome the shortcomings at the historic courthouse.
“I have been practicing law for 35 years and I can’t remember a time when everyone was not complaining about the outdated and miserable conditions in what is called the historic courthouse,” he said. “There is no air conditioning, no heating. The only air conditioning is opening windows when it gets too hot. The lighting is poor. The elevator dates back to the 1930s. The bathrooms are in less than standard condition. It is not compliant with Americans With Disabilities Act requirements. The whole thing needs to be torn down. I believe that is why the judiciary approached the state to provide the funds to build a new courthouse. That old building is not an appropriate place to be conducting trials. A new courthouse has been on the books for many years and we had been waiting for state funding, which came in.”
Unfortunately, said Briguglio, the offsite accommodations for the new facility are vastly inadequate.
“If you are going to have 40 new courtrooms, then you need to provide for the needs of the public,” he said. “No private sector developer could build an 11-story office building anywhere in the county of San Bernardino and get a permit to build with only 200 parking spaces. I do not know what went into the decision-making to set that up. I do know that there are going to be four empty courtrooms in the new building, which could be filled with operations that should be transferred over from the old courthouse, so they could just knock it down and turn the land where it is now into a parking lot.“
Briguglio said he had not expressed his concerns directly to Slough, indicating he felt doing so as a private attorney would be inappropriate. He said the sentiments of lawyers in that regard would be better provided through the collective forum of the San Bernardino County Bar or Western San Bernardino County Bar associations.
The Western San Bernardino County Bar Association was formed in the late 1950s by a group of lawyers in the Ontario, Chino and Upland area. The association’s primary mission was to convince court officials of the need to provide a court on the west side of the county, an effort which successfully culminated in the construction of a courthouse in Ontario at Mountain Avenue and Sixth Street. That facility was later closed down and replaced by the courthouse in Rancho Cucamonga.
One attorney who asked that his name not be used uttered a sentiment similar to those of several of his professional colleagues when he told the Sentinel that closing out the civil division in Rancho Cucamonga would throw the west end of San Bernardino County “back into the dark ages.”
Richard Anderson, who has been practicing law since 1968 and was the mayor of Upland from 1984 to 1992, told the Sentinel, “I have to tell you I am against what they are calling the realignment. I have yet to ascertain the purpose or what the benefit is to the community or the court system. There is absolutely no economic benefit that I can see. Initially, there was some discussion about how in these difficult economic times there was a need to bring about court efficiency and that the courts need to save money. But that is just not so with this. There is no way this will bring about economic benefit. We are still going to have the same judges and the same staffs. In fact we will have additional costs because of the need for so many people to travel. That this will bring about savings is a canard. I also see in this that justice will be denied here because people who live in the more remote areas of the county, because of the realignment, will have to travel greater distances. This will certainly put an undue burden on people who must go to court on family law matters or unlawful detainers to protect their property interests. I can’t see a benefit, either to the administration of justice or to cost efficiency.”
Anderson said he is joined by many other attorneys in his perception.
“That is the way I feel,” he said. “I deal with many other attorneys in the civil arena and I can tell you that others agree with me. Sundry other attorneys have expressed the same thing and they are wondering ‘Why are they doing this?’”
Dennis Stout, who was both the mayor of Rancho Cucamonga for eight years in the 1980s and San Bernardino County District Attorney for eight years in the 1990s and early 2000s, said the realignment is “a non-starter in terms of the better administration of justice or cost efficiency. All governmental entities are supposed to serve the people. What they have done with this, I am afraid, is totally ignore the needs of the public. This may make sense to people oriented around their own self needs, but it just bypasses the principle of why we have a justice system that is accessible to everyone. In order for the justice system – both the criminal justice system and the civil courts – to operate and operate fairly, it has to be done in a public way. That is why things are open to the public. It encourages people to participate. What this is going to do is put a hardship on everyone who either needs to participate or wants to participate. There may be some marginal savings to the courts in this, although I don’t know that for a certainty. But this is going to transfer the costs to members of the public and to other government agencies, for example police departments who will have to send their officers way out of their jurisdictions. This is going to impose costs on the sheriff’s departments, the district attorney’s office, the public defender and at least some of our county’s cities. This isn’t going to represent any savings in the long haul.”
While some attorneys were willing to speak on the record, many were not. Some said it would be impolitic, unwise or poor form to be critical of the bench and the presiding judge in particular. Significantly, no attorneys speaking publicly or privately to the Sentinel supported the concept of realignment. The Sentinel was unable to locate a single currently serving judge willing to publicly comment on the pending move. All but one of those judges, current and former, who did consent to speak with the Sentinel regarding the realignment did so only under a strict understanding of anonymity. All of those were uniformly opposed to the realignment. The Sentinel’s survey of the bench was by no means exhaustive or scientific, but indicated widespread skepticism about the workability of the arrangement Judge Slough will be imposing in May. One confided that realignment would in short order prove to be “disastrous” and that Slough had been autocratic in devising the realignment strategy, and had not consulted with the bench in drawing it up. The Sentinel did learn, indirectly through Western San Bernardino County Bar Association President-elect David Ricks, that there was a judge who is supporting Slough’s realignment. Ricks did not identify who that judge is.
“I can tell you without indicating who, because I have agreed not to share their identities, I have found one judge in favor of it,” Ricks told the Sentinel. “That’s it. The other ones I have had conversations with have not been in favor of the change. That is also true of bailiffs and the court clerks. Of the ones in Rancho Cucamonga, none are thrilled about the idea of going from Rancho Cucamonga to San Bernardino and making that daily commute to work.”
The Sentinel located one former judge willing to weigh in on the realignment issue.
Gus Skropos was a Superior Court judge from 2000 until 2005. Prior to that he was mayor of Ontario from 1994 to 1998, as well as city councilman in that city for six years, and served as an appointed member of the county board of supervisors. He worked as a deputy prosecutor with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office for 12 years.
Skropos said he considered the realignment ill-advised and an approach that reflected the degree to which the judiciary has lost touch with the citizenry it is supposed to serve.
“If this were the first effort to consolidate our courts I think we lawyers and the public at large would be more tolerant and understanding,” Skropos said. “I remember the days when we had municipal courts before they were consolidated with the Superior Court. Municipal court judges were elected and had to live in the local community and as such were inclined to meet the local constituents’ needs. Since the consolidation of the municipal courts, which no longer exist, with the Superior Court, we now have judges who no longer have to live within the county or the communities in which they serve and I see that as a defining moment in why we are now headed in this direction. Judges can, and many do, live elsewhere in the state and I don’t think judges are as well connected to their local constituency as they were two decades ago. This is not a huge problem, but I think there is a disconnect there. I know our judges work hard and are dedicated and sincere, but this particular decision is headed in the wrong direction, in my mind.”
Skropos decried the move as one that will render justice hard to achieve for the common citizen.
“I can recall when we had courtrooms in Twin Peaks, Chino, Redlands, Needles and 29 Palms,” Skropos said. “All of that has evaporated and it does a disservice to local residents. I think people understand that those courthouses were shuttered because we were experiencing tough times and our facilities needed to be streamlined and made more economical. But whereas with the first round of cuts and closures, court services continued to be relatively accessible to the public and the legal community, that is no longer the case. Access to the courts and the dispensing of justice exists to serve the constituents, not the other way around. The public does not exist for the convenience of the courts. I understand these are difficult economic times. There has never really been a time when money was flowing. There are going to continue to be hard budgetary times. Civil courts, family law courts, small claims courts are very important to the community. Some people tend to think that the courts are just there for criminal matters. That is not the case. If this goes into effect, and I believe it will, people in very populated areas of our county, not just at the extreme ends but people living in the desert and the mountain communities are going to need to drive in excess of 100 miles in many cases on family law matters, custody matters, property cases to access the courts. We have already shuttered five of our courthouses in the last decade. If this were just going to be an inconvenience for attorneys, there would probably not be a lot of sympathy for them with the public. But this will be a major strain on many of our residents who will have business before the court. I don’t envy the decision-makers who have to make these tough calls on the allocation of our public dollars, but I believe there needs to be a reanalysis of this decision. If there were substantial savings to be had, I think people would be a little more inclined to go along with this. But from what I understand, this is just a one or two percent savings at the most. In the larger scheme of things, I think there are better places to look to achieve that economy.”
In response to a request for an interview, Slough told the Sentinel via email, “[O]ur county court system has historically been underfunded, and the cuts unfortunately hit us harder than it has in some of the better funded county courts. Our cuts went straight to the bone, as we did not have fat to trim! The closure of Needles, Big Bear and the almost complete closure of Barstow Court have clearly added stress to an already stressed court system.
“The decisions I and others of this court have been faced with have truly weighed heavily, not only on me, but on our court and court family as a whole,” Slough continued. “Of course, these decisions have come at a steep price to our county citizens, and have not been made lightly. I do understand that the realignment plan which has prompted your contact is met with opposition, as have all of these very tough decisions.”
Judge Slough has extended the Sentinel an invitation to meet with her and the county court system’s recently-hired executive officer, Christina Volkers. This will, Judge Slough said, allow her and Volkers to “discuss these issues and the backdrop of the past years with you. This will give us the opportunity to discuss the questions that you included in your email and also to brief you on our budget and operational difficulties which have led to the most difficult times this court has probably ever endured.” The Sentinel’s interview with Judge Slough and Volkers is scheduled for March 19.
In the meantime, concern is mounting that the course Slough has set for the court system will be one that will be extremely difficult to reverse, even after what critics call its multiple drawbacks manifest.
“This is going to be set in stone,” Ricks said. “There are no contingency plans to bring civil back to Rancho Cucamonga. No plans. If the budget changes it is more likely they would reopen the Barstow Courthouse before they do anything else. Under this court administration, it does not look like the resumption of civil cases in Rancho Cucamonga is going to happen. The difficulty in trying to reverse what will happen in May is there won’t be money in future budgets to move back or revert back. It will eat up $1 million from the budget to make this change. No one thinks using the money that way is advisable other than the presiding judge. No one is able to stop it. The county will have to find more quarters for the DA. The county will have to rent office space for the DA in Rancho Cucamonga. The public defender has the same problem. This will have a dramatic effect on businesses around the courthouse, which support attorneys and civil clients from out of the area. They will not be there anymore.”
Ricks said that several civil and family law attorneys contemplated legal action to block the realignment, but that option was ultimately rejected.
“In 2012, Los Angeles County made modifications to its court system,” Ricks said. “Personal injury cases were consolidated downtown. They basically closed tons of courts. All civil courts in Pomona except two to handle business cases were shut down. A lawsuit was filed by lawyers, but it did not get anywhere. I talked to the firm that handled the lawsuit. They told me the lawsuit was essentially thrown out. We did not see filing a lawsuit or an injunction as worthwhile. If it was tried and defeated in another county, we could expect the same results here.”
It has widely circulated that there is a hidden impetus for the court realignment, one involving a former presiding judge. That impetus has nothing at all to do with court efficiency or economies of operation, according to that line of thinking. Rather, the goal is one of urban renewal, specifically the rejuvenation of the county seat, the city of San Bernardino.
Just this week, Patrick Morris retired as the mayor of San Bernardino. Prior to his mayoralty, Morris was a Superior Court judge, and acceded to the position of presiding judge. Morris’s eight year tenure as San Bernardino mayor was marred by the city’s 2012 filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.
The advent of the new courthouse in San Bernardino is seen as one of the first major developments in the city’s effort toward financial recovery. By filling it with a majority of courtrooms devoted to civil rather than criminal cases, the courthouse can be utilized as a strategic means of drawing a well-heeled clientele to downtown San Bernardino on a daily basis.
“I can’t prove it, but my sense of it tells me that Patrick Morris is a prime mover in this realignment,” one attorney said. “He was highly respected as a jurist. He was a mentor to many of the judges who are still on the bench. The city where he has just finished up two terms as mayor has gone through this horrific financial debacle. This changeover that will be putting all of the county’s civil courtrooms in downtown San Bernardino is a Godsend for that community. Maybe this is just a coincidence. Others can draw their own conclusions, but I see the influence of Patrick Morris behind this.”
While stopping short of attributing the shape of Slough’s realignment to Morris’s influence, Richard Anderson expressed the belief that an effort to improve the situation in San Bernardino was a factor in the new court operations policy.
“The only conceivable benefit to this is the urban renewal it represents for San Bernardino,” Anderson said. “What this is doing is throwing a bone to the city of San Bernardino in the form of trying to bring in some additional business. I think that is what they are trying to do here but it doesn’t make sense. I know from experience that the parking situation around the existing much smaller courthouse is atrocious.”
It is a battle of wills at this point, Ricks said, and given her position of power and authority, Slough appears to be destined to win, no matter what the consequences.
“When I met with her in November,” Ricks related, “in an attempt to encourage her not to do this, I said, ‘Look, we attorneys are businessmen and businesswomen and we have ideas about how to streamline things and save money. What if we can come together to come up with ideas to reduce costs to preserve our courts where they are, so the West Valley area could be served locally rather than have civil courts transferred to San Bernardino? I as an attorney have lots of ideas.’ At that point I was told it was not about budgetary issues and it was not going to make any difference. This was being done for the convenience of the court and the ability to manage their manpower more than anything else. The idea of savings was shot down. According to Judge Slough, it is far more convenient for them to have the ability to cover for judges who may be sick or out for some other reason when you have them in the same location. For administrative purposes it is much more efficient when you have court reporters in the same location. You can pool court reporters to cover more courtrooms. Under the realignment, they are not firing anybody, they are not terminating anyone. From a cost standpoint, this is not making any difference. The state has created a real problem for the courts. Because of the state’s dictates the courts have only a one or two percent reserve available at any time, which means they have just enough money at any time to keep operating for two weeks or at most a month. The courts cannot operate at a deficit so they have to become much more efficient to avoid the potential losses. We understand that and are more than happy to work with the courts to reduce costs and increase efficiency and avoid unnecessary costs. The private sector is much more efficient and we could go through the courthouse and see where efficiencies could make big differences.”
But Judge Slough has proven impervious to the entreaties to reconsider the realignment, Ricks said, and no one has the leverage to prevent it from occurring.
“Basically, the public does not at this point care and has not reacted,” Ricks said. Janice Rutherford met with Judge Slough and district attorney [Mike] Ramos met with her as well as someone from sheriff’s office, all of whom encouraged her not to do this. During a walk-through of the new building, someone asked her not to do what she has said will come in May. They were told it is going to happen. Many people express anger about it in private and in confidence, but no one wants to oppose the presiding judge.”
Once the move is made, both Ricks and Briguglio said, the public will awaken.
“For us attorneys, it will be ‘Oh, well, we get paid anyway.’” Ricks said. “It will be something way different for someone who has to travel all that distance, a 200 or 300 mile round trip. It will dawn on people then.”
Said Briguglio, “Everyone is going to have to adapt and the general public will have to deal with it as the rest of us are. My hope is as these problems arise there will be some flexibility and willingness to make adjustments for what is unexpected.”
(March 7) In September 2012, Judge Marsha Slough succeeded to what might have otherwise been considered the apex of her judicial career when she was elevated from the position of assistant presiding judge to replace Ronald M. Christianson as the presiding judge of the San Bernardino Superior Court.