Two Municipal Court judges this week began a two-week judicial training session in Berkeley over the objections of the Ventura County district attorney, who argued that they should stay in Ventura to handle cases in the overcrowded courthouse.
Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury had urged Judge Ken R. Kiley and John Paventi, a court commissioner who regularly sits as a judge, to postpone attending the training session to avoid a repetition of the events of June 27, when a shortage of judges caused the dismissal of 10 misdemeanor cases.
"It's a good idea that they get the training--it's invaluable," Bradbury said Wednesday. "But I have to admit to some apprehension. If cases get dismissed, I'll be concerned."
Based on court estimates, a judge can handle 10 cases a week, he said. "Theoretically, the presence of the two judges for the next two weeks could avoid the dismissal of 40 criminal cases."
Kiley and Paventi were not available for comment, but court officials defended their attendance at the Judicial College.
"You have attorneys who become judges who are winging it and getting bits and pieces from other judges," said the court's executive officer, Sheila Gonzalez. "This is their opportunity to learn what it is to be a judge."
Both Kiley and Paventi are former deputy district attorneys who joined the bench last fall. The college is operated by the state-funded California Center for Judicial Education and Research, based in Emeryville. It serves as a training center for judges around the state.
The intensive series of courses, which teach procedures for trials, sentencing and scheduling cases, is only offered once a year, said Winslow Small, associate director of the center. "It's not a vacation."
Florence Prushan, the Ventura court's deputy executive officer, said the court expected to cover all cases assigned to it this week with the assistance of a retired judge and a visiting judge from the California Judicial Council, which sends judges to overloaded courtrooms.
However, she said the court was still not sure how it will handle a sizable load of cases it faces next week. As of Tuesday, she said the court was expecting to handle 58 cases that either have to go to a jury trial or be dismissed Monday under constitutional protections that guarantee speedy trials.
"This week is covered," she said. "But next week is still questionable."