Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin Monday denounced Superior Court judges countywide for slicing through their backlogs stemming from past COVID-19 public health lockdowns by dismissing dozens of cases without an apparent willingness to entertain further postponements.

“I assure you that we are doing everything in our power, advancing every legal argument, preparing every viable appeal, offering the court every possible solution, to keep our local judges from dismissing criminal cases,” Hestrin said. “These case dismissals are not justified and are not justice.”

According to the District Attirbet;s office, in recent months, judges have tossed more than 200 cases as they contend with a collective backlog of over 2,800 criminal matters on their dockets.

“This includes both misdemeanor and felony offenses,” the agency said. “Most dismissed cases involve domestic violence charges but have also included other crime types, such as an assault case and a robbery.”

The judges are citing instances where they cannot find courtrooms to try matters even when the prosecution and defense are ready to move forward with proceedings, according to the D.A.’s office.

“Rather than granting the prosecution a brief continuance until a trial courtroom becomes available, judges have chosen to dismiss criminal cases and release the accused perpetrators,” the agency stated.

The Superior Court Executive Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to prosecutors, the massive backlog is a direct result of the changes in court operations that were ordered or allowed by the State Judicial Council and Office of the Chief Justice after the governor declared a public health state of emergency amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Following the initial declaration, the courts implemented a series of additional emergency-driven modifications, with multiple courthouses in Riverside County remaining closed for most of 2020, and others only being available to the public for limited hours each weekday.

Between the early spring and late summer of 2020, jury trials were suspended unless they had already begun.

The governor’s lockdown orders that were renewed again toward the end of that year impacted court operations further.

All of the COVID-19-linked emergency orders affecting the courts expired earlier this month.

Prosecutors said that state law permits re-filing dismissed felony cases one time. Misdemeanor cases cannot be refiled.

The current backlog is reminiscent of the cumulative impact of a buildup of unresolved criminal cases in 2007 that prompted the state to dispatch a “judicial strike team” to the county to help sort through criminal cases clogging the local court system.

At the time, the Superior Court virtually halted civil jury trials for months while judges focused on reducing the strain on judicial resources. An empty elementary school was even converted into a makeshift courthouse, specifically to hear civil matters.

The backlog at that time was about half of what it is now.

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