Not only will cases be reassigned to the courthouses in Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana, but three judges who officially had retired but continued to serve will be let go to make room for transferring employees.
"This was driven by budget issues," San Bernardino County Presiding Judge Marsha Slough said about the decision to let the judges go. "We're just trying to figure out how best to coordinate the closure of the Chino courthouse."
Judges Ben Kayashima, Barry Plotkin and Raymond Van Stockum, who sat on the bench at West Valley Superior Court Rancho Cucamonga for years, were recently told that the San Bernardino County Superior Court system was unable to keep them next year.
The decision goes hand-in-hand with the Chino Courthouse closure, Slough said. It was made so three Chino Courthouse judges would have benches in Rancho Cucamonga.
Kayashima, assigned to a civil courtroom, was appointed to the bench in 1980 by Gov. Jerry Brown during his second term.
Plotkin, also assigned to a civil courtroom, was appointed in 1990 by Gov. George Deukmejian.
Van Stockum, assigned to the criminal misdemeanor department, was also appointed by Deukmejian in 1990 to the Municipal Court and elevated to Superior Court by court unification in 1998.
They each served 20 years before being appointed to sit on assignment as a retired judge, Slough said.
"Each has served our bench consistently and with loyalty since their respective appointments, and in their retirement," Slough said. "They have served our court and county well, and each will be missed."
Officials said it is helpful to have retired judges filling in for vacancies in the courts, especially in San Bernardino County where there are 83 judicial positions - 69 judges and 14 commissioners.
Based on the statewide judicial workload, there should be 150 judicial officers in this county, said Stephen Nash, San Bernardino County Superior Court executive officer.
"We are neck and neck with Riverside (County) as the most under-judged courts in the state," he said.
The recent announcement spotlights the dire position California courts are in.
The state court system has had $1.14billion in cuts in the 2009-10 to 2012-13 fiscal years, Nash said. This fiscal year will see a reduction of about $536 million, which is a substantial amount of the multi-year cut.
San Bernardino County will be hit with nearly $23 million in cuts this fiscal year, Nash said.
The Chino courthouse, at 13260 Central Ave., is scheduled to close on Jan. 1, after which the thousands of cases filed there will be heard elsewhere.
Currently, the Chino courthouse hears about 20,000 infraction cases, said Lynn Maxim, court district manager for Rancho Cucamonga and Chino. Out of those, nearly 7,000 will be transferred to the Fontana Courthouse and about 13,000 will be heard at Rancho Cucamonga.
Of the more than 4,000 misdemeanor cases filed in Chino, 500 will go to Fontana and about 3,700 to Rancho Cucamonga, Maxim said.
She estimates 700 felony cases will go to Rancho Cucamonga.
Additionally, all California Highway Patrol cases from Chino and Rancho Cucamonga will be reassigned to Fontana.
That means heavier workloads for clerks at both courthouses and crowded courtrooms, long lines and traffic, particularly at Fontana.
"We do recognize that it is an imposition on people," Slough said. "We tried our best to take that into consideration of where cases will be heard. This is just unfortunately a step that we have to take."
Reach Lori via email or call her at 909-483-9378, or find her on Twitter @IEcourtsNow