It is no secret that budget cuts have rolled through local and state agencies for years now. As funding for local courts decreases, the public suffers. These truths have recently made themselves evident with San Bernardino County, specifically in their main family law court in downtown San Bernardino.
Since early 2014 there were many restructuring efforts in the San Bernardino County Court System. Budget cuts led to the court attempting to streamline family law filings and reduce overhead by combining the family law courts in south San Bernardino County into one branch. As of mid 2014 Rancho Cucamonga court no longer accepted or processed family law filings. All the filings that were handled here were then sent and processed through the main family law court in San Bernardino. From a management standpoint this seems like it could work. Central management of staff and procedures, one location to monitor and file family law resulting in less variation from court to court all could turn the process of filing into nothing short of a standard yet efficient process.
After this merger of courts the real implications became evident. Initially we saw that anyone in west San Bernardino County had to travel to San Bernardino court to file and attend hearings. This means even people who lived in Chino Hills would have to take a 45 minute drive to access family law court services. Secondly our team saw that the court had merged family law services but did not accurately anticipate the workload that would come from this merger. Processing times for San Bernardino family law court was already the slowest in all of the inland empire courts, but now filing & processing times in San Bernardino were practically doubled.
The biggest problem we observed was within the court itself. Different departments were not communicating with each other. Documents would enter the mail room and be sorted according to where in the court they were to be processed. Often times a single file would be divided up and sent to different departments. This caused a huge problem when one department would process faster than the other and files were being sent back to the parties for being incomplete. The fact was that it was not an incomplete file but rather each department not knowing the other had the rest of the file. This resulted in a file having to be resubmitted for processing, but only after the slower department in the court had caught up and noted what they had done with the file. When the file went back to the court it went to the back of the line even if the file had been there months before. Compounded with increased processing times, now the public had to wait for files that entered the system after theirs to be processed first.
Entering a few months into 2015 our team has not seen any change in the court in terms of better systems or procedures to combat the problems created by budget cuts and court mergers. The good news is our team understands the shortcomings of the court and processes our client’s files accordingly. We track our files at the court 2 times every day to ensure that they process accordingly. Even with increased processing times and a decrease in the overall quality of processing by the court, every single one of our client’s files have gone from start to finish with ease for our clients.