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Touring Chief Justice Voices Aims, Concerns

Judges pulled out their cameras and declared it a historic day as California Chief Justice Ronald M. George toured several county courthouses Thursday to get a firsthand look at some of the local justice system’s successes and problems.

From cutting edge computer systems and misdemeanor video arraignments to cracks and water stains on the ceiling of the presiding judge’s courtroom, the chief justice saw it all on the whirlwind visit, the 25th stop on his tour of courts in all 58 counties.

“I wanted to show you my concern,” he told a crowd of judges, court employees and state judicial officials in Santa Ana. “We really are interested in helping you solve your own problems.”

George started the day at Municipal Court in Laguna Niguel, describing the court system there as one of the most congested he has seen so far statewide.

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But he said he was impressed with what he saw countywide, particularly with the county’s one-day, one-trial jury selection system and “user-friendly” services in the Santa Ana courthouse.

The tour comes at a time when court officials are battling the Board of Supervisors for more court funding, which they say is crucial if they are to keep their trial courts operating.

George said his top priority as the year 2000 approaches is to help secure stable sources of sufficient state funding for all the trial courts.

“We must get over the hurdle of courts running out of money every year,” said George, who is also chairman of the executive committee of the Judicial Council of California. “No business could operate that way with a hand-to-mouth approach.”

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George, a 1964 graduate of Stanford Law School, was appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson to the Supreme Court bench in 1991 and became chief justice last May. He had previously spent 24 years as a judge in the Los Angeles County municipal and superior courts, and as a justice with the 2nd District Court of Appeal.


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