Over objections by County Supervisor Ed Edelman, the Board of Supervisors has approved positions for new Municipal Court judges for the Long Beach and Downey courthouses.
Two new judges and support staff were approved Tuesday for Long Beach at a cost of $174,316 a year to handle a backlog of cases and an increasing workload at the court.
Supervisor Deane Dana, who proposed the two additional judgeships for Long Beach, said experts in the county and legal community agree that "judges are significantly more efficient than commissioners" and that cases in Long Beach will be handled more rapidly once the new judges are in place.
County officials said the actual cost of two new judges in Long Beach is $356,000, but that would be offset by savings of about $181,000 by leaving vacant an unfilled commissioner position. The board's approval brings the number of judges in the Long Beach courthouse to nine.
In addition, the board approved one new judge and support staff for the Downey courthouse at a cost of $211,956 annually.
According to Harry Hufford, the county's chief administrative officer, a serious backlog of criminal cases in Downey has forced the state Supreme Court to assign visiting judges from other counties in order to prevent dismissal of criminal cases.
Both motions were fought by Edelman, who cited recent news media reports that courts in the county are spending millions of dollars for high-priced private court-appointed defense attorneys.
However, Supervisor Pete Schabarum, who introduced the motion for the Downey judgeship, argued that the Downey courthouse has lower costs for private court-appointed attorneys than most courts in the county and should not be punished for the practices of other courts.