Assessor’s Office Big Bear Court Lease Signals Realignment To Last To 2019

(October 31)  Action by the county board of supervisors earlier this month signaled that the terms of San Bernardino County Presiding Judge Marsha Slough’s court realignment will likely remain in place at least until 2019.
In May, over much protest by attorneys, local government officials and citizens, Slough’s realignment went into effect, transferring nearly all civil cases countywide to the new San Bernardino Justice Center located at 247 West Third Street in the county seat, which contains 35 courtrooms within its 11 floors. In addition, San Bernardino district criminal cases, formerly heard in the San Bernardino Central Courthouse built in 1927, are tried in the new San Bernardino Justice Center.
West Valley Superior Courthouse in Rancho Cucamonga, which previously was a venue for all order of cases including both civil and criminal cases originating on the west end of the county, is now devoted almost entirely 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 in the past had been  routed to the Fontana Courthouse. The Rancho Cucamonga courthouse also hosts hearings on both civil and domestic violence restraining order matters.  A small portion of the criminal cases once heard in Fontana are now being  adjudicated in San Bernardino.
The historic San Bernardino Courthouse remains as the forum for the family law cases from nearly all of the  county.
The Fontana Courthouse is now 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 from Fontana have been transferred  to Rancho Cucamonga, with a lesser number of the Fontana criminal cases now heard in San Bernardino.
The Victorville Courthouse remains a venue for High Desert family law cases and criminal cases in the High Desert.
The Joshua Tree Courthouse remains functional, serving those in Joshua Tree, Morongo Valley, Twentynine Palms, Yucca Valley and the greater Morongo Basin.
The Barstow Courthouse remains open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but only traffic cases are heard there.
In the years prior to the May 2014 realignment, courts in Redlands, Chino, Needles, Twin Peaks in the San Bernardino Mountains, and in Big Bear were shuttered.
Many questioned the wisdom of Slough’s transformation of the county court system and the centralization of civil courts in downtown San Bernardino.
Slough, however, said the changes were necessitated by the state’s reduction in funding for the court system.
Far flung San Bernardino County, which spans 20,105 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. Slough’s change is imposing a tremendous logistical burden on many of the county’s citizens who need to access the courts. Driving distance from Needles to San Bernardino is 212 miles, with an average one-way traveling time of three hours and nine minutes.
Critics of Slough’s plan held out hope that once it was implemented and the problems with it manifested, the plan would be rescinded.  Despite the inconvenience and logistical difficulties the county’s residents and their attorneys have experienced the past five months, it does not appear Slough has reconsidered her decision.
At the October 21 board of supervisors meeting the board entered into a lease agreement with the  Judicial Council of California covering the period from November 1, 2014 to October 31, 2019 for 341 square feet of office space the Big Bear Lake Courthouse  at 477 Summit Boulevard in Big Bear Lake for use by the county assessor.
According to county real estate services director Terry Thompson, the square footage in question involves “a room on the second floor” consisting of 341 square
feet. The Superior Court of California no longer has a need for the room but still incurs its pro rata share of building expenses for the space. The joint occupancy agreement provides that one party may license to the other party any exclusive space. On October 14, 2011, the county executive officer approved a short term month-to-month license agreement, No. S11-002, with the Judicial Council of California. The original term of the license was from November 1, 2011 to October 31, 2014. The assessor requested the real estate services department negotiate a new five-year license agreement for the continued use of the office space. On August 22, 2014, the county administrative office approved capital improvement program request No. 15-186 submitted by the assessor to extend the term of the license.  The real estate services department has negotiated a new five-year license agreement from November 1, 2014 to October 31, 2019 under the same provisions as the current agreement.”
It thus appears that top county officials do not anticipate the Big Bear Courthouse being reopened for another five years. That commitment is not absolutely etched in concrete, however, since, according to Thompson, “Either party may terminate the license agreement with 30-days’ notice.”
Thompson said the county will pay the Judicial Council of California $23,568 annually to utilize the office space, or  $1.09 per square foot per month or $4,464 monthly, which he said is “low-range for comparable facilities in the Big Bear Lake area per supporting lease comparables on file.”

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