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District Attorney Appeals After Riverside County Court Dismisses Criminal Cases


RIVERSIDE, Calif.—Courts in California’s Riverside County have dismissed hundreds of criminal cases since Oct. 10 under a decision by Presiding Judge John M. Monterosso. County District Attorney Mike Hestrin has appealed the judge’s decision, saying the move is wrong and a “crisis in the courts.”

According to a November announcement from the DA’s office, over 500 criminal cases were dismissed countywide in October. Among the dismissals were about 50 felony cases, including charges such as “attempted murder, assault, stalking, arson, vandalism, and a hate crime,” the announcement stated.

Hestrin said he felt like these cases got dismissed “without any serious look at the consequences, without considering the arguments that we put forth.”

“These are felony and misdemeanor cases,” Hestrin told NTD, a sister media of The Epoch Times. “These are sometimes violent crimes, serious and violent crimes, with real victims and real consequences for the people of this county.”

Epoch Times Photo
Riverside District Attorney Mike Hestrin speaks to NTD in Riverside, Calif., on Nov. 4, 2022. (Adam Lin/NTD)

On Oct. 25, just before the last COVID-related emergency order from the California Chief Justice expired, Judge Monterosso issued a press release stating that a chronic shortage of judges was not good cause to continue cases beyond their statutory deadlines.

In the press release, Monterosso pointed to a lack of resources such as judges and available courtrooms. The Riverside Superior Court has taken measures to utilize its resources in order to have cases be resolved before trial. Some of those changes include using civil judges for criminal trials, having multiple criminal trials per day, and calling on retired judges for help, the press release explained.

“The decision on whether ‘good cause’ exists is an individualized decision made by the trial judge based on the law and the facts of the case,” Monterosso stated in the press release.

However, in an announcement issued on Oct. 24, the DA’s office argued, “The California Appellate Courts have held that a backlog of trial cases caused by the pandemic is good cause to continue a trial.”

Hestrin said Riverside County has had a judge shortage for decades, and no criminal cases have been dismissed for that reason.

Hestrin said that while the backlog of criminal cases also occurred in other California counties, “the mass dismissal strategy is not being employed anywhere else in the state, only Riverside County.”

Riverside County’s current criminal case backlog is a result of COVID-19 spreading across the state beginning in March 2020, according to the DA’s office. The pandemic heavily affected the operations of local Superior Courts, as in-person court proceedings were limited and jury trials were suspended.

“This is going to backfire on our courts,” Hestrin said. “Our backlog is actually going to go up. You can’t dismiss your way out of a backlog; you’ve got to work your way through it. … Eventually the system will get back to balance.”

Under a series of emergency orders issued by the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, trial cases could be postponed to a later date. These emergency orders caused a backlog of around 2,800 cases, according to the Riverside court.

With reporting by NTD’s Jackie Rios

Lear Zhou

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Lear is a reporter based in San Francisco covering Northern California news.



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