2022-2023 San Joaquin County Grand Jury Releases Final Consolidated Report and Selection of the 2023-2024 Civil Grand Jury

Stockton, CA —  Today, June 30, 2023, the 2022-2023 San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury released its final consolidated report.  The final consolidated report contains investigative reports, findings and recommendations developed in the 2022-2023 term.  Civil grand jurors examine and investigate local governmental activities within San Joaquin County. The responsibilities of the civil grand jury encompass the examination of all aspects of county government, including school and special assessment districts, to   ensure that the county is being governed lawfully, efficiently and that public monies are being handled appropriately. The grand jury may conduct investigations of public agencies and the administration and affairs of any city within the county.

Hon. George J. Abdallah, Jr., Supervising Judge of the San Joaquin County Grand Juries  commented on the 2022-2023 Civil Grand Jury’s work, saying, “The 2022-2023 Grand Jurors deserve to be proud of their work and well considered evidence based recommendations made for the benefit of the entire San Joaquin County community.”

Today, also marks the day the members of the 2023-2024 Civil Grand Jury will be selected and sworn in. The selection and swearing in will take place in Department 3D at 3:00 p.m. The Civil Grand Jury is comprised of 19 citizens who are impaneled annually for a one-year term. The 2023-2024 term begins July 1, 2023.

The public is encouraged to read the final consolidated report by visiting the Grand Jury’s website.


Tameem Mardini Appointed to San Joaquin County Superior Court Bench

Stockton, CA —  The Judges of the Superior Court of California, County of San Joaquin are pleased to announce the appointment of Tameem Mardini to the position of Superior Court Judge.  Mr. Mardini was appointed to the bench on June 27, 2023, by Governor  Newsom to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Elizabeth Humphreys.  “On behalf of the Court, I thank the Governor for yet another tremendous appointment to our court. Tameem Mardini has done an outstanding job as Court Commissioner and I am confident that he will continue to well serve the citizens of our county as a judge of the San Joaquin County Superior Court,” said Presiding Judge Michael D. Coughlan.

Mr. Mardini has served as a Court Commissioner at the San Joaquin County Superior Court since 2021, handling criminal, juvenile delinquency, traffic, civil and family law cases  He was a Sole Practitioner from 2020 to 2021. Mr. Mardini was an Attorney at the Law Office of Joel   Carash from 2008 to 2019.   His practice areas included Family Law, Personal Injury, Criminal and Juvenile Delinquency.  He also served as a Judge Pro Tem hearing Juvenile  Traffic matters from 2014 until his appointment as Court Commissioner.

Mr. Mardini was admitted to the California State Bar in December 2008.  He earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Golden Gate University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Davis. 

Mr. Mardini had this to say about his appointment, “I am deeply honored to accept the appointment as Judge of the Superior Court of California. I look forward to working alongside my esteemed colleagues in upholding the principals of justice and serving the wonderful community of San Joaquin County with integrity and dedication to the law. ”

A state Judicial Needs Assessment has found that the San Joaquin County Superior Court is in need of additional judgeships. The appointment of Mr. Mardini will greatly assist the Court’s goal in continuing to provide access to justice for court litigants.

Mr. Mardini’s formal and public swearing in ceremony has yet to be scheduled.


2022-2023 San Joaquin Civil Grand Jury Releases report on the Eastern San Joaquin Groundwater Authority

Stockton, CA — Today, the 2022-2023 San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury released its report investigating the Easter San Joaquin Groundwater Authority (ESJGWA). The ESJGWA is comprised of 16 Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) covering the entire Eastern San Joaquin Subbasin and is responsible for developing, adopting and implementing a legally sufficient Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) that covers portions of the subbasin within the jurisdictional boundaries. Having received a citizen’s complaint and subsequently reviewing concerns about public outreach and engagement by the ESJGWA in the course of its work, and because of the significance of water issues to San Joaquin County residents, the 2022-2023 Grand Jury elected to undertake an investigation.

In the course of the investigation, the Grand Jury conducted 12 interviews with the complainant, members of the ESJGWA Board of Directors (current and former), County staff, representatives of several stakeholder groups, and interested citizens. The Grand Jury also reviewed ESJGWA governance documents, meeting minutes, budgets, annual reports, initial and final GSPs, and public outreach materials; websites of the ESJGWA and its member GSAs; portions of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and related Department of Water Resources requirements, California Water Code, and other relevant government codes; stakeholder correspondence; news media stories on groundwater in the Central Valley; and many other pertinent documents.

The Grand Jury concluded that while the ESJGWA has successfully developed and is currently implementing its GSP, concerns exist about inadequate public engagement, a lack of transparency in the conduct of its business, and administrative issues. The Grand Jury’s recommendations, include, but are not limited to:

• Develop, adopt, and implement a plan to improve public communications and outreach.

• Identify ways to better find and engage with members of disadvantaged communities (DACs), including non-English speakers, in the San Joaquin Subbasin.

• Update the website, esjgroundwater.org, to ensure full compliance with the provisions of SB 929, SB 272, Government Code Section 7405; identify members of the board, reflect the actual dates and times for Board meetings; and enable easier public access to ESJGWA financial information, meeting agendas, minutes and other official documents.

• Formalize the status of the TAC as a standing committee and bring it into compliance with the requirements of the Ralph M. Brown Act.

• Monitor the expiration dates for any relevant governance or contractual documents and GSP implementation deadlines to ensure the Board can act before any lapses occur.

• Ensure staff support is adequate for efficient, cost-effective operations.

The public is encouraged to read the complete report by visiting the Grand Jury’s website.


2022-2023 San Joaquin Civil Grand Jury Releases report on At-Risk Youth in San Joaquin County

Stockton, CA —  Today, the 2022-2023 San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury released its report investigating the policies, procedures, and standards applicable to the care of At-Risk Youth in San Joaquin County.  At-Risk Youth are defined as children who do not have the opportunities, experiences, or resources necessary to succeed in life. These children have significant obstacles they need to overcome, including but not limited to parental neglect, abandonment, and medical or psychological needs that their families cannot or will not deal with on their own. In some cases, the children are victims of abuse or criminal activity.

The Grand Jury cited a citizen’s complaint as the basis for its investigation, which alleged the At-Risk Youth being housed at the Mary Graham Children’s Shelter (MGCS) were   either  engaging in or were victims of dangerous behaviors during their stay. Specific attention was concentrated on MGCS and interactions with the County Sheriff’s Office; however, during the early stages of the investigation, it became clear that the complaints the Grand Jury received were not solely due to failures of these agencies’ policies and procedures. Multiple agencies, including the County’s CPS, Sheriff’s Office, Probation Department, and Courts, are ineffective in managing At-Risk Youth and their families. The focus of the Grand Jury investigation shifted to assess the quality of care At-Risk Youth  receive from various social welfare and law enforcement entities in San Joaquin County.

In its investigation the Grand Jury toured MGCS, the Juvenile Detention Center, and Children’s Home of Stockton, conducted twelve interviews, participated in four agency presentations, and reviewed numerous  documents, statutes, and regulations.  The Grand Jury determined there are several reasons At-Risk Youth are in harm’s way, including:

· an increase in the population of At-Risk Youth who are more challenging to manage;

· staffing issues, including insufficient number of available floor personnel, and lack of leadership;

· lack of sufficient training for administrators, onsite management, and staff necessary to deal with the challenges presented by the enactment of new laws and regulations;

· lack of interagency cooperation within the County; and

· lack of foresight and preparedness to deal with Criminal Justice Reform as it pertains to youthful offenders.

The Grand Jury found the issues above bring into question the overall effectiveness of the County’s current commitment to caring for At-Risk Youth. The collective findings of this investigation indicate that the County can be its own worst enemy when it comes to developing solutions to the ongoing problem of providing a safe environment for these At-Risk Youth, while also providing the services necessary to foster an ideal and secure  environment where they can grow into productive citizens.  Unfortunately, no magical    solutions exist to solve the problems affecting these youth. The Grand Jury recommends all County agencies involved in the care of this very  vulnerable segment of the County’s    population must come together to create, implement, monitor, and advocate for better programs, care, and treatment of At-Risk Youth.

The public is encouraged to read the complete report by visiting the Grand Jury’s website.


2022-2023 San Joaquin Civil Grand Jury Releases report on School Safety in San Joaquin County

Stockton, CA —  Today, the 2022-2023 San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury released its report investigating school safety in San Joaquin County.  The Grand Jury cited recent events in San Joaquin County and elsewhere raised the question of whether the schools in the County were taking appropriate steps to protect students and staff.

Rather than focusing their investigation on one type of school safety threat, such as school shootings, or on school safety planning at one school or district in the County, the Grand Jury concluded it would best serve San Joaquin County citizens to review emergency preparedness planning for threats across the school safety continuum. The Grand Jury evaluated school safety planning from a layperson’s perspective by measuring each district’s preparedness against best practices as identified through research and expert testimony. The Grand Jury’s report shares with the public the results of that evaluation.

In its investigation through multiple interviews, site visits, and expert witness testimony, the Grand Jury found while many protocols have been established in the County, there is no unified approach to school safety. Rather, safety planning often consists of a patchwork of policies and procedures and many of the Comprehensive School Safety Plans (CSSPs)    required by law are boilerplate documents that are rarely specific to school sites. The Grand Jury reported schools in San Joaquin County are safer because of recent efforts by school districts, but more can be done.  The Grand Jury’s recommendations, include, but are not limited to:

· The San Joaquin County Office of Education and the San Joaquin County Office of Education Board of Trustees develop, adopt, and host an annual School Safety Summit.

· School districts create more opportunities for meaningful involvement by parents, students, and staff in safety planning efforts.

· Law enforcement must be more involved in the process of development, implementation, and annual updates of the CSSP, including participation in safety   training/drills, building relationships with students and staff, and helping to create a culture of safety.

· Each school site’s CSSPs account for dangers unique to the specific school site (e.g., train tracks, flooding, freeways).

· Safety drills should be conducted on different days throughout the school year and at various times throughout the school day.

· All school sites post flip charts or similar summaries of emergency procedures be posted in all classrooms and common areas.

The public is encouraged to read the complete report by visiting the Grand Jury’s website.