With no opportunity for a public hearing, and denying the right for the public to even express their concerns and opinions beforehand, a San Diego County Superior Court administrator has proposed closing the Probate Department in North San Diego County as of Sept. 3, 2012.
The North County Bar Association has taken a strong position against the closure of the North County Probate Court. This closure has been proposed as a budget-cutting measure to meet the budgetary requirements forced on the Court by the California Legislature. The Bar deplores this attack on our justice system and, in particular, deplores the drastic and far-reaching effects of this particular cost cutting measure.
A third of San Diego County’s population lives in North County, with a large elderly percentage. All those people produce a caseload requiring hundreds of hearings every week. North County’s population and probate caseload is equivalent to that of Ventura County.
The Vista Probate Department serves the vulnerable and needy of our community who look to the Court for help. Closing the North County Probate Department has a far-reaching impact on these citizens. At a time when they have endured loss of their final assets, they may have to wait up to a year for the overcrowded downtown court.
Closing the North County Probate Department will likely cost far more than it saves. Even if all of the staff is let go, or moved to other positions, it will not take long before sufficient staff will have to be hired to handle the increased workload in the downtown court.
You, your family, friends and neighbors will be affected by this proposed closing if you or they:
• are a beneficiary of someone else’s estate;
• want to settle a dispute with others who claim they are entitled to assets of a decedent;
• want to collect a debt from an estate that was rightfully owed to you by a decedent;
• want to clear title to land or other assets that were held only in a decedent’s name but in which you have an interest;
• want to protect the interests of your minor children who are beneficiaries of someone else’s estate;
• want to establish guardianship over your relative’s children if something awful happened to their parents;
• want to seek conservatorship over your elderly relative who can no longer care for themselves or their affairs;
• want to obtain protection from elder abuse for yourself or a loved one;
• want to review actions taken by a trustee, executor, agent, conservator, or guardian;
• want to clarify your loved one’s health care wishes; or
• want to defend yourself against allegations brought against you in petitions like those in this list.
This proposed closing of the North County Vista Probate Court serves no one but affects all of the citizens of San Diego County. Many will have to travel fifty miles or more to the downtown courthouse, and everyone will have to wait longer and suffer greater delays for justice.
Your concerns need to be heard NOW because together we can make a difference. Here is how you can be heard and have your say:
• please submit your comments IMMEDIATELY to the Court electronically, on the official website at: www.sdcourt.ca.gov (click on “Invitation to Comment”) , or mail your comments to Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, Attn: Michael Roddy, Court Executive Officer, 220 West Broadway, Executive Office, San Diego, CA 92101.
• please contact and speak to your local and state representatives about this continuing attack on the judicial system;
• please demand a public hearing that includes information about the cost and benefits of the North County closure before consolidation occurs;
• please write letters to the editor or contact your news station about these issues; and
• please send copies of your comments to the North County Bar Association at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
William Kamenjarin, the president of the North County Bar Association, can be reached at (760) 729 -0107.