The state Court of Appeal division in Santa Ana had a backlog of cases when it began operations nearly four years ago, and it has been losing ground ever since. So have Orange County residents seeking justice through the courts.
Orange County is the most litigious county in the state. More appeals were filed in Santa Ana last year than in any other appellate division in California. And the backlog grows for the simple reason that the court, like many other courts throughout the state, needs more judges, but the Legislature has turned its back on the need.
According to the state administrative office of the courts, Santa Ana's appellate division deserves at least two, maybe three, additional justices. The overload, according to Presiding Justice John K. Trotter Jr., has reached the "saturation point."
It's not that the justices aren't working hard enough. Last year, each of Santa Ana's four judges wrote an average of 140 opinions, far exceeding the statewide average of 104. But the court still lost ground because lawyers filed new appeals faster than the court could issue opinions. That buildup adds a delay of four to six months each year. As of now, it takes about three years to get a ruling on a civil case.