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Violent crime cases dismissed as court backlog in Riverside County continues

Court backlog in Riverside leading to hundreds of case being dismissed
Court backlog in Riverside leading to hundreds of case being dismissed 03:29

In one fell swoop, a sexual battery case was dismissed, the suspect was set free and a victim was left with no justice or peace. 

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said the case was first continued when the court's third-party vendor didn't bring in a jury. The next day, all charges were dropped, along with the victim's restraining order against the suspect because there was no available courtroom. 

"I do not agree with the court's decision and I am disappointed that justice was not served," the alleged sexual battery victim said in a statement. "He is now a free man in the community who received zero consequences."


This is just one of the hundreds of cases being dismissed in Riverside County because of a seemingly insurmountable backlog of cases. The issue started, in part, when cases were put on hold during the pandemic. However, several experts said that the Riverside Superior Court continued this practice for far too long. The backlog of cases combined with a chronic shortage of judges and a lack of courtrooms created a situation where serious and violent crime cases are being dismissed. 

"Riverside County knew this was going to be a problem," said defense attorney Alexandra Kazarian. "They had 2,800 cases, 18 courtrooms and they did nothing to stop this backlog."

Kazarian said she has tried cases in Riverside and has seen the backlog firsthand. 

"This is something that was absolutely foreseeable," said Kazarian. "And literally every single day that goes back, the backlog gets bigger."

Advocates said the victims are sometimes overlooked in criminal cases. Activists added that oftentimes victims are unsure of their rights and overwhelmed, which causes their fear to grow even more. 

"It is very devastating for a lot of victims to experience certain things in the criminal justice system, especially seeing cases getting dismissed," said Mariam El-menshawi, executive director of the California Victims of Crime Resource Center. "The feel the system is saying 'Well, what happened to you is not important. It was not a crime in our eyes.'"

Loyola Law Professor Jessica Levinson said this backlog seems to be a long-standing problem with no easy fix.

"It looks like the issue with the jury summons was a one-off, that's easier to fix," she said. "But when it comes to a lack of availability of judges and courtrooms, that's not going to change overnight."

According to the Riverside Superior Court, the third-party vendor has resolved all issues surrounding jury summons.

Officials said that the vendor suffered mechanical failures with their printing equipment which delayed the process of summoning jurors. The delay caused "the time period for notification was shortened," and gave potential jurors less time to "prepare for their service."

"The mechanical failure, and thus delay in mailing, resulted in a reduced number of jurors reporting in December," said a Riverside Superior Court spokesperson.

The court stated that it has not had issues with the vendor in the past. 

In a statement, Hestrin called this situation an unacceptable crisis that "only adds to the daily toll of cases being dismissed by the courts." 

In a statement to CBSLA, a Riverside Superior Court spokesperson said the institution is looking into the issue. 

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