More than 200 people remain incarcerated with their trials months past the legal deadline here in San Francisco, and Sup. Ronen is on a warpath to speed up getting these cases heard.
San Francisco Superior Court said that it would be “fully reopened” by late June this past summer. That has not happened! In fact, since that period, that court has completed a mere six criminal trials. While a Superior Court judge unloaded on Chesa Boudin in September for alleged disorganization in the DA’s office, it seems the Superior Court is sort of a mess right now too. KPIX reports that court is swimming in a backlog of nearly 500 unprosecuted criminal cases that are past their trial deadline, and supervisor Hillary Ronen is pushing for a legislative fix.
Yesterday, I held a hearing to address the backlog of criminal cases in the SF Superior Court. For the past 20 months, the court has violated the right to a speedy trial. Justice cannot continue to be delayed. https://t.co/It5EA3kt4w— Hillary Ronen (@HillaryRonen) December 3, 2021
"Every single person has the right to a speedy trial," Ronen said at Thursday’s Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight committee. The image in the above tweet is pretty wonky, just because they have to crawl phone numbers across the screen when doing Zoom meetings, but we’ve pulled the same slide from the Public Defender’s office, and as seen below, there are 218 people in custody awaiting trial, and their trials are way past deadline.
The Public Defender’s office, the District Attorney’s office, and the Sheriff’s Department were all in on the Zoom meeting, but no one from the Superior Court itself was there. “Judge Fang rejected the invitation,” Ronen said Thursday, clearly irked. (She refers to the court’s presiding judge Samuel K. Feng.)
Feng and his team may have a legitimate reason for ducking out. When KPIX reached out for comment, the station was told by a spokesperson that “because the case backlog dispute is part of a pending lawsuit he couldn't discuss it.“ In other words, they’re being taken to court because they’re getting enough cases through the court.
And there is a racial aspect to this. According to the Public Defender’s office, 53.5% of the people still awaiting trial are Black. That is in a city whose population is but 5.6% Black. (Though these numbers are as of Sept. 7, 2021).
And this does a disservice to more than just accused criminals. "Long delays deprive victims we serve of the justice they deserve," said DA’s office representative Marshall Klein.
Per KPIX, committee may recommend “using civil departments for criminal cases and considering alternative San Francisco locations for trials, “ and that the committee voted to “send a resolution prioritizing criminal trials and safely opening courtrooms to the full board.”
Image: Kevin Y. via Yelp