By Sam Alcaraz
RIVERSIDE, CA – The theme in Riverside County Superior Court last week in Department 2K was plain and simple: Show up.
Judge Emily Benjamini announced for all to hear:
“We’ll proceed to call the rest of the calendar. Those of you who are here, if you don’t have an attorney at this point and you want an attorney, let me know. I can appoint the public defender, assuming you qualify…you’d have to fill out a financial declaration.”
Benjamini then warns: “I do want to let you know that you’ll see that some people don’t show up. I’ll be issuing warrants. What that means is that a bench warrant will go out, and if they happen to get stopped or have any contact with law enforcement they’ll get arrested on that warrant…so it’s very important that you show up in court so you don’t get anything like that issued against you.”
Benjamini then went on to go through the court’s extensive calendar for the day, reading name after name after name, while issuing warrants for the numerous no shows, stating each time:
“No appearance? Bench warrant $10,000.”
“No appearance? Bench warrant $5,000.”
“Okay we’ll have to issue a warrant. Bench warrant $5,000.”
In some cases, the lawyers present in court requested the judge to make a second call. Benjamini replied, “Okay we’ll leave the warrant outstanding. No appearance.”
Benjamini then called for Julissa XXX, who is being charged with a DUI. After getting no response, Benjamini announced, “Bench warrant $10,000.”
Later on, after a brief break, the tardy accused made her appearance in court. The judge asked her to come forward.
Benjamini addressed her and stated, “You were supposed to be here at 8:30 a.m. You’re not here on time.”
She replied, “I thought it was at 9 a.m.”
Benjamini decided to put aside the warrant and asked if she had an attorney with her, to which she replied she needs a public defender.
Almost immediately, a public defender stepped in to assist her, and confidently addressed the court after taking a brief look at her case, “We have received discovery in this matter. We would like to set a pre-trial date…”