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By Tim Hunt

Opening East County courts is necessary

Uploaded: Jun 8, 2017

Later this year, Alameda County finally will achieve what should be significant savings in transporting inmates from Santa Rita County Jail in Dublin to courts around the county.
The long-awaited East County Hall of Justice will open later this month for a few criminal courts and will be fully operational by July. The plan is for all arraignments of in-custody inmates to take place in Dublin instead of busing inmates to Oakland and Fremont.
The change is part of an overall reorganization of the county’s courts that has been ongoing for a couple of years. The change has been driven by state funding that has been consistently squeezed by the governor and the Legislature. That has forced court leaders to decide how to operate differently to save money.
For instance, all traffic violations have been shifted to Fremont, which means both law enforcement and citizens challenging the violations must go there. When I reported this last year, I quoted Pleasanton Police Chief Dave Spiller saying some of his traffic officers had renewed their motorcycle skills so they could get back home on Interstate 680 more quickly instead of being parked in the afternoon traffic.
The shift to arraignments in Dublin will be more efficient for the Sheriff’s Department and the court system. It will not work well for families of inmates who live in Oakland and Berkeley where the majority of those arrested reside. The jail and the court house are located about a mile from the East Dublin-Pleasanton BART station.
County officials said they are planning to run a shuttle bus from BART to the courthouse.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff is among the elected officials calling on presiding Judge Morris Jacobsen to reconsider the plan. She cited the costs and impacts on families as reported by the East Bay Times.
That’s fair, but it’s also important to recognize that the court system must live within its budget and the same goes for the county. Relieving the Sheriff’s Dept. from transporting pre-trial inmates around the county will save lots of money. Some of those savings can go to providing the shuttle service from BART.
Residents of the Tri-Valley have seen their courthouse shutdown and key operations shifted elsewhere in the county. Eviction proceedings and family court was shifted to Hayward last year while traffic went to Fremont.
The court system is managing a $5 million deficit in the current fiscal year and trying to do so wisely. It’s an approach the Oakland mayor would do to well to emulate in her city.