The need for a third judicial seat was triggered by population increases that began in 2002. The Sparks Justice Court, though, has repeatedly waived its creation because of a delay in construction of a new, larger courthouse and years of steep budget cuts.
“As the recession continues and county revenues continue to decline, the court has now, for the fourth time, agreed to defer the creation of the third judge position …,” a county staff report stated.
The restored funding will be used to cover judges’ salaries, office supplies, interpreter services and other resources.
Judge Kevin Higgins said the court has used a part-time judge, Jim Mancuso, to help cover growing caseloads during the last four years — a temporary solution.
“I would think we wouldn’t have much choice two years from now,” Higgins said about the necessity of adding a third judge to the bench.
The fact that the court handles the second largest caseload of any justice court in the state only complicates the matter. Meanwhile, the number of civil litigations, traffic citations, misdemeanor criminal offense trials and felony arraignments are on the rise.
The Sparks Justice Court is set to move early next year from its present Greenbrae Shopping Center location to 1675 Prater Way, the former home of the city’s now-defunct Public Works Department.
Court officials believe the move to a new location will provide greater security and more efficient processing of cases.
The deal struck Tuesday would not change these plans.
“Thank you for what you’re doing,” Commissioner Bonnie Weber said to court officials. “I know it’s greatly needed because of the downturn in the economy.”