NEXT MEETING: June 14, 2013
The History of the Navy Seal
Did you know that longtime Richmond resident Martin McNair is a former Navy Seal? Martin will share with us how and why this elite group of the armed forces started. He will describe some of the early history and, no doubt, enliven his presentation with personal accounts.
MEETING OF June 7, 2013
Liliane Koziol opened the meeting with a warm welcome to everyone. Tom Waller led the pledge of allegiance and Stony Stonework asked us to take a moment of silence for peace and justice on earth.
Rotarians with Guests
Richard Alexander introduced his wife Katherine Alexander, a former Rotarian herself.
Ralph Hill reported that Charlie Wong called him today to wish him a happy birthday and that Charlie sends his best wishes to all of us Rotarians.
A happy mom at Richmond High School receives a gift bag from Don Lau
Last Monday, June 3, Jan and Byron Brown, Don Lau, and Alan Baer delivered gift bags packed with baby care supplies to 31 young mothers at Richmond High School. This, the culmination of the Teen Moms Project, was made possible by the work of a handful of Rotarians; generous donations by Project Linus-Diablo Valley (thanks to friends at the Moraga Rotary); and the Clorox Company, which contributed Burt’s Baby Bees and Gud products for both the babies and moms. Major kudos go out to Jan Brown, though, who once again steered the project through to its happy completion.
- Rafael Madrigal reminded everyone of the upcoming A’s game on Saturday, August 31st. Tickets are $30 each and include the ticket to the game plus all the food and drink you can ingest at the tailgate party. Get your tickets now!
- Jim Young reminded everyone of tomorrow’s bocce ball tournament. We are fielding two teams led by Pam Jones and Rafael Madrigal. It sounds as if Pam’s team is the one to bet on if you intend to bet. The tournament is being held at Marina Park starting at 10 AM.
- Sid announced that he brought back two Rotary club banners for our collection while he was on vacation, one from the Branson, Missouri Hollister Club and one from the Branson, Missouri Daybreak Club (which starts at 7:00 AM).
Happy and Sad Dollars
- David Brown had happy dollars for the birth of his second grandchild in Japan. The family will be visiting in August so grandpa can see the new baby. Congratulations David!
- Jon Lawlis told us that he was flipped off in the Caldecott tunnel by Glen Daggs, a fellow Rotarian, who I guess thought that John was a tad on the slow side!
- Jim Young had happy dollars because his son-in-law recently received a major job promotion, while his NASA-employed son’s lunar module was apparently located somewhere it wasn’t supposed to be, and appropriately programmed to go to the moon. (This must be some sort of NASA scientist joke – the thing was supposed to go to the moon but they programmed it for New Jersey instead.)
- Nick Despota had happy dollars because the migration of the Rotary website to its new web server, after two rough weeks, is now completed and seems to be working well.
- Sid Chauvin had sad dollars because he lost his wallet with all his credit cards – that definitely warrants sad dollars.
An old Irishman was coming home late one night from the pub. As he passed the graveyard, he thought of all his friends in there, and then he saw a stone beside the road. He thought, “The poor man, buried out here by the highway. And he lived to the ripe old age of 145. A fine man. Let’s see, his name was Miles, from Dublin.”
Justice Delayed is Justice Denied
David Brown introduced guest speaker The Honorable Judge Diana Becton. David explained to the group that a defining characteristic of a “good judge” is what’s called “judicial temperament”. To be considered as possessing judicial temperament, a judge must listen more than he or she talks; be curious about why the litigants are there and what’s important to them; have respect for the majesty and dignity of the American legal system; and understand the importance of everyone leaving the courtroom feeling like they’ve been heard, even if they did not prevail. David reported that Contra Costa County is very well served by Judge Becton who possesses these characteristics in abundance.
Judge Becton’s presentation was titled “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” and she went on to tell of the appalling condition of our county and state judicial system, primarily due to extreme budget cuts. Judge Becton underscored that citizens have a right to prompt access to the justice system to seek legal redress, but that due to the severe cuts the system has experienced, this right cannot currently be assured.
From 2008 through 2011, the court system in Contra Costa County absorbed $7.5 million in cuts, 13% of its total budget at the time. Then, in 2012, the county system was required to absorb an additional $7 million in cuts in one year. As a result, drastic cuts have been made to personnel and the services and programs they provide including the closure of courtrooms.
The Contra Costa judicial system typically handles 10,000 criminal cases, 25,000 civil cases, 10,000 family law cases, 120,000 traffic cases, 2,000 juvenile cases, and 1,300 probate cases every year. In order to handle this load, a staffing ratio of ten support staff to each bench officer or judge is necessary. Currently, the court system has a ratio of 7.7 support staff for each judge. Five courtrooms have closed including those in Concord and Walnut Creek whose courthouses now handle traffic cases only. All other cases are transferred to Martinez, as are all of Richmond’s juvenile cases. In addition to the closure of the courtrooms, one out of five of the county’s family law departments and one out of five civil law departments have been closed. Court reporters have been cut from family and civil probate cases; self-help centers have been cut by 50%; management positions have been cut by 40%; line staff have been cut by 30%; and clerks hours have been cut allowing the clerks’ office to operate on a part-time basis only.
Judge Becton described the impact that these cuts and closures have had on the public. They include long waiting lines and waiting times during which people have fainted or become involved in altercations. The case load is no longer measured in the number of cases waiting to be filed, but in the number of feet of cases piled in the office, now at 23 feet high. Cases that have already been adjudicated can sometimes take six months for the paperwork to be finalized. Judge Becton reported that statewide 61 courthouses have closed since January 1, 2012 and that 26 night courtrooms have closed as well as 18 problem-solving centers. Child custody cases, which should for the good of the child take no longer than three weeks to hear, are taking up to six months. Overall, the state’s judicial system has sustained approximately 19.6% in cuts, all of which prevents people from receiving prompt access to the justice system.
Although Contra Costa is a prudently operated system with an established reserve fund, new legislation requires that all reserve funds will be confiscated by the state in this next year. Judge Becton reported that due to these problems, the system has devolved into a two-track system, one for those who can afford private mediation and one for those who cannot, and that overall the ability of the system to provide adequate and timely justice has decayed.
Lynn Martin, Roving Rotary Reporter