Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

State Supreme Court upholds Riverside County's dismissal of criminal cases - latimes.com

State Supreme Court upholds Riverside County's dismissal of criminal cases - latimes.com\

A shortage of judges in Riverside County has led to the dismissal of hundreds of criminal cases, a practice the California Supreme Court upheld on Monday and blamed on the state's budget woes.

In unanimous ruling, the state high court said Riverside County's dearth of judges represented a "chronic" problem that was the fault of the budget-strapped state.

The case before the court involved an accused burglar, one of 18 criminal defendants whose cases were dismissed on the same day after they invoked their rights to speedy trials. Two of the 18 were charged with felonies.

Riverside County Deputy Public Defender William A. Meronek said Monday's ruling also would end prosecution for as many as 300 other defendants whose cases were on appeal after being dismissed for lack of judges. But Riverside County Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Tate said his office would fight to prosecute the most serious of the dismissed cases.

"There are quite a few very serious allegations, some involving dead bodies — vehicular manslaughter, assault on police officer, assault with deadly weapon, crimes against children," said Tate, who argued the case before the Supreme Court.

The judiciary has long insisted that California needs more judges, but nowhere has the shortage been more dramatic than in Riverside County.

Chief Justice Ronald M. George, writing for the court, said in Monday's ruling that "the lack of available courtrooms and judges was attributable to the Legislature's failure to provide a number of judges and courtrooms sufficient to meet the rapidly growing population in Riverside County."

Riverside prosecutors challenged the dismissals, arguing that the court should have made every judge in the courthouse, including those in juvenile, family law and probate, available for the cases.

But the state high court said Riverside County already was giving criminal cases priority over civil disputes, and the court was not required to halt proceedings in civil cases to make room for criminal matters.

An absolute rule giving precedence to all criminal cases could force a court "to abandon entirely its responsibility to provide for the fair administration of civil as well as criminal matters," George wrote.

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