Four South County municipal judges and their staffs will work four days a week for 10 hours a day starting next month in an effort to improve the efficiency of the courthouse.
The new schedule was suggested by Supervisors Don R. Roth and Thomas F. Riley.
"We are in desperate need of court facilities and we agreed to try this at Supervisor Roth's suggestion," said Pamela Iles, Municipal Court presiding judge. "This will maximize what we have by squeezing out another courtroom."
Iles said the judges in the main courthouse in Laguna Niguel and two of the four commissioners at the traffic annex in Laguna Hills will start the new schedule April 15. The courts will remain open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Last year, Roth began pushing the idea of judges working 10-hour days to increase the efficiency of the court facilities, noting that such a change could reduce jail overcrowding and forestall the construction of new and expensive court buildings.
"This innovative step means that the residents of South County will have court facilities in Laguna Niguel and Laguna Hills that will open earlier and stay open later than any other court in Orange County," said Riley, whose district includes the South Court. "I am pleased this unique program has begun. It will allow great use of the court's overcrowded facilities to better serve the residents using the court."
Iles said the court has four courtrooms, three judges and four commissioners to serve the about 400,000 people living in South County. She said it will be five or six years before a new courthouse could be built to serve the area.
"I wish to stress that there is no reduction in work hours, but rather an increase from the traditional 40-hour work week to a five-day-a-week, nine- or 10-hour day," Roth said. "Instead of driving to work five times a week, employees will only have to drive four times a week."