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Added Judge Should Ease Municipal Court Logjam

July 20, 1989|WILLIAM OVEREND | Times Staff Writer

A veteran Ventura County prosecutor was appointed Wednesday to the Ventura Municipal Court in an action by Gov. George Deukmejian that court officials said could have a major impact on the court's chronic problem of dealing with backlogged cases.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Thomas J. Hutchins of Thousand Oaks was named to the judicial post three weeks after a controversy over the dismissal of 10 criminal cases because of a shortage of judges, but officials said his appointment had been under consideration for months.

Hutchins, 48, a Ventura prosecutor since 1979 specializing in death penalty cases, was previously in private practice in Ventura and earlier was a deputy public defender in Los Angeles County. He is a graduate of Cornell University Law School.

Will 'Minimize Dismissals'

"It's going to help," Lee Cooper, assistant presiding judge in Ventura Municipal Court, said of the appointment. "It will help minimize dismissals of cases in the future. I don't know if it will prevent them altogether. The situation has been chronic for years."

Ventura County had 10 Municipal Court judges until 1981, when an 11th position was added. Hutchins will become the 12th judge on the court.

The Judicial Council of California has said Ventura County needs 16 municipal judges to handle its growing caseload.

Dismissal of the 10 criminal cases last month touched off a controversy over the shortage of judges on the court and prompted sharp criticism from Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury.

He said criminals should know that "they're not going to walk out the door because of some snafu in the system."

Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Vincent O'Neill said Wednesday that the appointment of Hutchins "should have a very healthy impact on the backlog."

O'Neill also praised Hutchins as an attorney with a broad background of legal experience.

Hutchins said he hopes that the addition of a judge will help reduce the Municipal Court backlog in the county.

He added that he is "looking forward immensely to a new career after 10 years of doing mainly murder trials."

Hutchins said he does not yet know when he will be sworn in and begin his new duties.

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