Clerk’s Office Faces Massive Backlog as Pandemic Continues to Interfere with Courts

By Ankita Joshi

ALAMEDA, CA – The Alameda County Superior Court Clerk’s Office met with Judge Karin Schwartz this week to raise its concerns about an overload of the number of cases here.

The key issues discussed were a decrease in the number of calendar slots, 229 backlogged cases, and delay in scheduling, which has caused hardships for many defendants.

As of Wednesday, for instance, only 65 cases were set, and many were extended to continue into August and September.

Judge Schwartz noted that the court has “some capacity, but not for a big block of cases” for more cases to be scheduled in the following months.

The main issue of scheduling these cases so far out is that the volume of cases coming in are not being processed until prior cases can be resolved.

It was also stated that the pandemic had brought unexpected calendar shifts, such as having a lower number of guaranteed slots and a lower availability of court dates.

In the past, the cases that are currently backlogged used to have over 75 slots per week. Now it has been reduced to less than 50.

Since the court is receiving an average of about 200 applications per month, it was requested that a minimum of 50 guaranteed slots would help alleviate some of the backlog.

Judge Schwartz made sure to mention that she is not able to do much other than raising this backlog as an issue. She noted that if they are able to “knock out a large number of cases, then [their] workload lessens.”

The representative from the clerk’s office mentioned that the office has a “considerable backlog that is comparable to the Public Defender’s Office,” especially since they have to go through other checks that the PD’s Office does not have to.

The pertinent issue that defendants were facing due to this backlog was having to wait to be released, since calendar dates have been filling up early. This has resulted in defendants having to wait longer than what they were at the beginning of the pandemic.

It was also noted that each application has different conditions. Some applications have 20 convictions that have to be addressed, which has also “reduc[ed] efficiencies for the court,” as some cases have to be broken up into two court dates with repeated evidence.

Currently, 229 dockets to which Deputy District Attorney Veronica Rios Reddick is stipulating have not been submitted, and there is no timeline present about when those will be processed.

At this, Judge Schwartz chose to bring up a solution that she believed might work in the meantime until the proposed work queue has been set up.

She stated that creating paper copies for uncontested cases that the DA’s Office has stipulated to and bringing them to court to be dealt with administratively would alleviate some of the pressure on the court calendar, because these cases wouldn’t be included on the calendar.

Judge Schwartz noted that part of the issue that clerks face in time management is having to print paper copies, so by printing them beforehand, a lot of time could be saved.

The meeting ended with Judge Schwartz stating that covering cases in batches would be the most beneficial practice until a work queue is established.

About The Author

Ankita Joshi is a second-year student at the University of San Francisco, pursuing a major in International Studies and a minor in Political Science. She is originally from Sacramento, CA.

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