2020-2021 San Joaquin County Grand Jury Releases Report on SUSD Board of Trustees

On July 21, 2021, the San Joaquin County 2020-2021 Civil Grand Jury released its report investigating the Stockton Unified School District Board of Trustees (SUSD). The most important responsibility of the Board of Trustees is to recruit, hire, and retain a superintendent to lead the district with a long-range vision for district programs and activities that focus on the achievement and well-being of all students.

The 2020-2021 Grand Jury received numerous complaints concerning the dysfunction of the SUSD Board of Trustees. Additionally, there have been media accounts describing conflicts within the district, especially among board members. After reviewing these complaints and media reports, the Grand Jury opened an investigation into the SUSD Board of Trustees.

In its investigation, the Grand Jury conducted 37 interviews, performed on-site visits, and reviewed relevant materials to ascertain the underlying causes of the dysfunction within the administration. Over the past 15 years, SUSD has had a revolving door of superintendents that made it difficult, if not impossible, for changes that lead to increased student achievement to take effect. The Grand Jury found the Trustees misunderstood and disregarded their roles and responsibilities, ignored best hiring practices, violated governance norms, and lacked transparency and public accessibility. Trustees abused their leadership roles to pursue personal disagreements between members and the frequent turnover of superintendents made it easier for board members to act inappropriately and, at times, exceed the limits of their authority.

The Grand Jury recommends the Board of Trustees publicly and officially affirm their commitment to change, adhere to their own standards of governance, and provide transparency and accountability to the public.

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

2020-2021 San Joaquin County Grand Jury Report on the City of Manteca: A City Government in Turmoil

On July 15, 2021, the San Joaquin County 2020-2021 Civil Grand Jury released its report investigating the City of Manteca. The Civil Grand Jury’s duty is to address citizens’ concerns regarding the operation of local government entities. The city government of Manteca is led by a Mayor, City Council, and a City Manager who, collectively, manage the City’s finance, fire, police, public works, and parks and recreation departments.

The 2019-2020 Grand Jury opened an investigation into the City of Manteca after receiving several complaints but was unable to complete it during its term. Since then, the City of Manteca has been the subject of numerous media reports about the loss of several key employees in a noticeably short period of time, and more recently, reports in reference to serious financial issues. The 2020-2021 Grand Jury received additional complaints from concerned residents and decided to open an investigation. In its investigation, the Grand Jury conducted more than 20 interviews with city management, staff, and members of the city council. The Grand Jury also reviewed documents, media accounts, and relevant internet websites.

The Grand Jury found an overall lack of leadership, due to the promotions of unqualified individuals into executive-level positions, created a dysfunctional administration that failed to effectively manage city operations and fostered a hostile working environment leaving staff overworked and fearful for their jobs. The mayor was elected in November 2018 by Manteca voters and followed through on campaign promises to rid the city of department heads that were perceived to be slowing down progress. The newly appointed executives lacked the experience, qualifications, and financial acumen necessary for effective management of city operations resulting in inconsistent employment practices, insufficient training and development, and an uninformed reorganization plan that more experienced managers could have avoided.

The Grand Jury recommends the City of Manteca develop, implement, and adhere to a transparent set of personnel policies and procedures that will ensure institutional knowledge is maintained during periods of transition and employees are properly trained. Additionally, the City of Manteca should strengthen its auditing activities, internal and external, with better oversight by elected and appointed officials to avoid future financial blunders.
The public is encouraged to read the complete report by visiting the Grand Jury’s website.

San Joaquin County Bar Association Launches Unity Bar In Honor of Justice William J. Murray, Jr.

San Joaquin County Bar Association Launches Unity Bar In Honor of Justice William J. Murray, Jr. The San Joaquin County Bar Association has launched a new section of the Bar named The Justice William J. Murray, Jr. Unity Bar Section of the San Joaquin County Bar Association. The new section of the Bar will strive to bring together members of various affinity groups along with those who are not identified with any particular group, in the pursuit of promoting unity and diversity in the legal profession. This section will provide a united front for Bar members to stand collectively in solidarity against all forms of racism and discrimination of any type, and
promote unity and solidarity with one another.

The Unity Bar is named in honor of Justice William J. Murray, Jr. because he is a visionary, who tried to start a Unity Bar in San Joaquin County 15 years ago, but he was told there wasn’t a need for one. The Bar believes Justice Murray is deserving of recognition and honor for his tireless leadership to our bench and bar, as well as for his positive efforts throughout the entire state’s judicial system, and extensive contributions to legal and judicial education, as well as impactful and extensive community outreach. He is a jurist of great distinction who has made significant contributions to our profession and has consistently promoted unity, fairness, access, and justice.

Justice Murray served on San Joaquin County Superior Court’s bench for fifteen years until he was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to the California’s Third District Court of Appeal. Prior to his appointment as a judge, he served nearly ten years with the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office. Known for his community outreach activities, he was a cocreator of the court’s innovative and award winning Court-Community Leadership & Liaison
Program and Jury Compliance and Education Program.

The first session of the Unit Bar will be held on May 18, 2021, from 12:30 to 1:30PM Judge Connie Callahan, Justice William J. Murray, Jr., Judicial Appointments Secretary Luis Cespedes, and other charismatic speakers are scheduled for the introductory Zoom meeting. The event is limited to bench and Bar members.

Court Operations Update

The Superior Court of California, County of San Joaquin (Court), with this, provides public notice, according to Government Code section 68106, of changes in court operations, in response to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). These changes will be in effect until further notice.

To reduce the risk to the public, staff, and judicial officers, and to achieve maximum social distancing, entry into the courthouse will be limited to the following:

  • Attorneys
  • Parties/Defendants
  • Minor/Minor’s Parents
  • Law Enforcement
  • Those filing or picking up restraining orders
  • Witnesses
  • Couriers
  • Jurors

No other persons will be permitted without good cause.

The Court will continue to take reasonable safety precautions to keep the public, court staff, judicial officers and others safe.

Pursuant to the Court Administrative Order of the Presiding Judge, all persons who enter the courthouses will have their temperature taken by a temperature-scanning device. Any person who refuses to have their temperature taken, or has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, will not be permitted to enter the courthouses. Per Governor Newsom’s mandate, all persons must wear a face covering to enter the courthouse and at all times while inside.


APPEALS: Will be heard telephonically. Documents can be submitted by dropbox or through the mail.

Department 10A Appellate calendars will be heard telephonically.


BRANCH COURTS: Department L1 and L2 at the Lodi Branch Court will reopen on March 1, 2021

Department M1 and M2 at the Manteca Branch Court are open.


CLERKS OFFICES: The Clerk’s office at the Juvenile Justice Center is open 8:00AM to 12:00PM, Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Clerks’ Offices in Stockton, Manteca, and Lodi are closed to the public. Clerk’s Offices can be contacted as follows:

  • By Telephone: To contact the Court by telephone, please visit the Court’s website for current hours and contact information.
  • On-line Support: Questions can be submitted via the Court’s support page.

There are drop boxes outside of the Stockton Courthouse. For the Manteca Branch and the Juvenile Justice Center, a drop box is located within the buildings. Lodi Branch drop boxes will be available as of March 1, 2021, and are located outside of the entrances to Department L1 and L2. eFiling is available for Civil, Family Law, and Probate. Please visit the eFiling Portal for more information.


THE COURTROOMS THAT ARE OPERATIONAL ARE LISTED BELOW.

CIVIL: Civil and Appeals documents to be submitted by dropbox, mail or eFiling; eFiling is encouraged. Courtesy copies must be submitted as outlined in Local Rule 3-117. Exparte hearings can be requested by email except for cases scheduled in Department 3A.

Hearings in dedicated Civil courtrooms continue to be held telephonically. All Requests for Temporary Civil Restraining Orders for Stockton, and Lodi cases submitted via drop window will be heard at the Stockton Courthouse until the Lodi branch reopens.

Departments 10A, 10B, 10C, 10D and 11B – All Hearings are to be held remotely unless otherwise directed by the Judge/Department. Refer to the Civil DIvision page for instructions on remote attendance at hearings and each Judge/Department’s requirements for attendance at Mandatory Settlement Conferences. The Court has resumed Civil Jury Trials.

Departments 3D Small Claims will resume March 1, 2021.


COLLABORATIVE COURTS: Case conferences will continue to be heard telephonically and via
video.


DEPENDENCY: Departments 9C and 9D are open.


CRIMINAL:
Department 3A is open.
Department 3C is open.
Department 5C is open.
Department 6C is open.
Department 6D is open.
Department 7A is open.
Department 7B is open.
Department 7C is open.
Department 7D is open.
Department 8A is open.
Department 8B is open.
Department 8C is open.
Department 8D is open.
Department 9A is open.
Department 9B is open.
Department M1 is open.
Department M2 is open.
Department L1 will open March 1, 2021.
Department L2 will open March 1, 2021.


JURY SERVICES: Our Jury Department has resumed full operations and jurors are now being called in for jury service. The Court is committed to providing a healthy and safe environment for jurors reporting for service and the Court is taking the precautionary measures to adhere to public safety and social distancing guidelines. For information regarding jury service including updated information regarding Covid-19 safety guidelines, please visit the Jury Services or call (209) 992-5500 for a Jury Services staff member.


FAMILY LAW:
Family law documents must be submitted by drop box, mail, or eFiling. Questions may be submitted via the Court’s online Support page. Department 4A will hear all matters set on calendar. Hearings will be staggered in the morning to maintain social distancing.

Department 4B will continue to hear all matters set on calendar, including trials. Department 5A will hear child support DCSS matters by telephonic appearance only unless requested in person and proper notice given. Non-DCSS or private calendar matters will be heard over Zoom unless requested in person and proper notice given. Long cause trials and contempt matters will be heard in person unless requested to appear over
Zoom.

Mediations will be conducted telephonically with the parties and their attorneys. The parties and their attorneys must appear in person at the hearing and will be given the telephone number to attend the mediation. The parties must then find a quiet location to call in to participate.


JUVENILE JUSTICE CENTER: Juvenile Traffic will resume on March 12, 2021.
Department J1 is open.
Department J2 will open on March 12, 2021.
Department J3 is open.


PROBATE/DEPARTMENT 11A: Probate will be open for the regular morning calendars, but it is encouraged that parties appear by teleconference rather than appear in person. Instructions and notice for the teleconference line can be found on the local form Notice of Teleconferencing Appearance and Requirements (SJPR-EMERG1), located on the Local Forms page. Notice for teleconference appearance must be served with any Notice of Hearing or on its own in all matters.

Settlement conferences and trials are heard in person in the courtroom, teleconferencing is NOT allowed for these matters. In limited circumstances, teleconference appearance may be allowed for settlement conferences with specific court approval at least 72 hours before the settlement conference.

Probate documents to be submitted by dropbox, mail, or eFiling; eFiling is encouraged. Faxed documents are no longer accepted unless specifically directed by the court. Questions and inquiries can be submitted online on the
Probate Inquiries page or by email to sjprobate@sjcourts.org.


MENTAL HEALTH: Continues to be heard remotely.


RECORDS MANAGEMENT: Requests for copies are accepted by mail and through the online request at /online-services/records-request/. Researchers are able to request an appointment to use a public kiosk for research. The general public can request an appointment to complete research. For more information on requesting copies or
appointments visit the Records Management Division page.


TRAFFIC: Traffic payments are accepted online, in person using the drop box located at the Stockton Court entrance, or by mail only. Mandatory court appearances citations are set 120 days out. Walk-in calendars are suspended.

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) for traffic infraction citations provides a way for you to possibly resolve your traffic case without having to personally appear in Court. ODR is available to you 24 hours a day from your phone, tablet or computer. Please visit the About and FAQ pages for detailed information on the ODR system.

Traffic hearings will resume in Lodi and Stockton, Department 3B, beginning March 1, 2021. The public is encouraged to verify their hearing date, time, and location by visiting https://cms.sjcourts.org/fullcourtweb/start.do. Notices will be mailed to those whose date, time, or location has changed.

Dept. 3D will resume traffic hearings March 8, 2021.


SELF HELP: The Self-Help Center is not open to the public for in-person assistance. Online assistance is available on the Self Help page or telephonic assistance by calling (209) 992-5283. For updates about hours of operation and other available self-help online services, visit the Court’s website.

Patrick J. Smalling Appointed to San Joaquin County Superior Court Bench

The Judges of the Superior Court of California, County of San Joaquin are pleased to announce the appointment of Patrick J. Smalling to the position of Superior Court Judge. Mr. Smalling was appointed to the bench on April 1, 2021, by Governor Newsom to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Brett H. Morgan.

Patrick J. Smalling

Mr. Smalling had this to say about his appointment, “I am pleased and truly thankful for the opportunity to serve the people of San Joaquin County as a Superior Court Judge. In my 17 years working in this legal community, I have the great benefit of knowing how dedicated the Court and the attorneys are at ensuring San Joaquin County has one of the State’s very best legal communities. I understand and accept the awesome responsibility of being a Superior Court Judge and guarantee I will dedicate myself to ensuring the various issues I preside over are competently and fairly considered.”

Mr. Smalling, 53,of Livermore,has served as an attorney in the San Joaquin County Public Defender’s Office since 2004. He currently serves as the Assistant Public Defender. In addition to handling his own felony trial caseload, he helps guide, manage and advise the attorney staff, the investigative staff and clerical staff in the office. In his career, he has handled thousands of criminal cases at all stages through trial. He was a Volunteer Deputy Public Defender at the San Francisco County Public Defender’s Office from 2003-2004.

Mr. Smalling was admitted to the California State Bar in December 2004. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from the New College of California School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Hayward.

Mr. Smalling was elected to the San Joaquin County Attorney’s Association Board from 2008 to 2015. While on the board he was additionally assigned the role of co-treasurer. The San Joaquin County Attorneys Association (SJCAA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to representing San Joaquin County civil service attorneys in all labor issues, compensation/benefit matters, employment grievances, and in collective bargaining.

Presiding Judge Xapuri B. Villapudua had this to say about Mr. Smalling’s appointment to the bench, “Patrick has had a distinguished career at the Public Defender’s Office providing outstanding service to the people of San Joaquin County. His experience and integrity make him well suited for the position of judge. I have every confidence he will serve with fairness, a commitment to justice, and respect all who appear before him. We are excited to welcome him to the bench.” Mr. Smalling’s formal and public swearing in ceremony has yet to be scheduled.

Home Page Notice

State of California Superior Court building in Stockton, California. Photo by Jesse Raigoza.

Erin E. Guy Castillo Appointed toSan Joaquin County Superior Court Bench

Judge Erin E. Guy Castillo

The Judges of the Superior Court of California, County of San Joaquin are pleased to announce the appointment of Erin E. Guy Castillo to the position of Superior Court Judge. Ms. Guy Castillo was appointed to the bench last week by Governor Newsom to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge William D. Johnson. “I’m honored to continue to serve the community I love. Thank you for believing in me and I’m humbled by Governor Newsom’s appointment,” said Ms. Guy Castillo.

Ms. Guy Castillo was admitted to the California State Bar in December 2007. Guy Castillo earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Francisco, School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Fullerton. As an attorney, she was recognized by Super Lawyers as a Rising Star for over five consecutive years and listed as one of the top women lawyers in Northern California. She handled a wide variety of civil matters and had several jury and court trials.

Ms. Guy Castillo, 40, of Stockton, has served as a court commissioner in the Superior Court of San Joaquin County, Stockton Branch, for the past two years, handling criminal, traffic, civil and family law cases. Prior to her appointment as a commissioner, she was a Partner at Parish Guy Castillo PC from 2014 to 2018. She was an Associate at William H. Parish PC from 2009 to 2014 and at Dowling, Aaron & Keeler Inc. from 2007 to 2009.

Ms. Guy Castillo has been extremely active in our local community serving all facets of society. She has been President of the Mary Graham Children’s Foundation, the San Joaquin County Bar Association, and currently serves as President of the Judge Consuelo M. Callahan American Inns of Court. She has also served as a board member for both the Leadership Stockton Alumni Association and Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce. She has spent
countless hours improving the legal community, including developing mentorship programs and giving presentations on current legal issues.

Ms. Guy Castillo’s formal and public swearing in ceremony has yet to be scheduled. Presiding Judge Xapuri B. Villapudua had this to say about Ms. Guy Castillo’s appointment to the bench, “Our court is thrilled, although not surprised that Erin has been appointed to the bench in San Joaquin County. Her commitment to serving the people of San Joaquin County is unwavering. Our bench will benefit from her legal acumen, integrity, work ethic, and her dedication to the rule of law.”

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

Homeless Court Continues to Help Those in Need

The Homeless Court has entered its 15th year of helping the homeless in San Joaquin County. The specialty court helps the homeless clear up minor traffic offenses, bench warrants and failures to appear without the threat of incarceration and fines, and with the goal of helping individuals become more employable, and possibly qualify for public assistance. The services provided through the court are a collaborative effort between the Superior Court of California, County of San Joaquin, San Joaquin County District Attorney, San Joaquin County Bar Association, and Stockton Shelter for the Homeless, St. Mary’s Dining Room and Veterans Administration. Together, approximately 5,000 homeless have been assisted since the court’s inception in January 2006.

Most of the offenses that are handled in Homeless Court fall into the following categories: traffic, bench warrants and failures to appear, morals offenses such as fare-jumping, illegal camping, possession of shopping cart, possession of open container, and loitering/park curfew. To qualify to participate in Homeless Court, individuals must be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless (i.e., couch-surfers), as well as those who are living in residential treatment programs.

Every individual who participates in Homeless Court has the services of an attorney. Individuals serve their sentences with volunteer work (community service at Stockton Homeless Shelter, St. Mary’s Dining Room, or the Emergency FoodBank) and participation in programs (AA, Mental Health, etc.) as set up by their shelter caseworkers. Others receive credit for time in residential treatment programs.

The Homeless Court has remained steadfast in its mission to provide help to this vulnerable population even with the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people experiencing homelessness and their ability to access services. In recent months, the Homeless Court has seen a reduction in participants. Judge Barbara A. Kronlund, who started the court in 2006, reflected on the current environment, “The fact that there has been such a huge increase in the unsheltered homeless has probably added to the Homeless Court’s declining numbers, because people tend to not worry so much about getting to court when they are so concerned about just keeping themselves fed and sheltered, especially in inclement weather. However, we want to continue to let the homeless and agencies that serve this population know that the Homeless Court is available. Our work is more important now than ever.”

There is a make-shift courtroom on site at St. Mary’s Interfaith Community Services in Stockton; however, in light of the pandemic limiting in-person contacts, Homeless Court is being held remotely, using the Court’s conference call line. This remote procedure has been in place for many months now, and it is working very successfully and efficiently. For more information, about the program, please contact Mercedes Moreno at MMoreno@stmarysdiningroom.org or (209)467-0703.

San Joaquin County Superior Court Seeking Applicants to Serve on the 2021-2022 Civil Grand Jury

The San Joaquin County Superior Court is seeking applicants to serve on the fiscal year 2021-2022 San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury. The deadline for application submission is April 2, 2021.

Applications can be obtained by calling (209) 992-5290. Applications can also be found on the court’s website at: /general-info/civil-grand-jury.

Members of the 2021-2022 Civil Grand Jury will begin serving August 1, 2021. The Grand Jury is comprised of nineteen citizens whose names are randomly selected from applicants nominated by the Judges of the Superior Court. The Civil Grand Jury inquires into and investigates the functions and operations of governmental bodies, agencies and public officials within San Joaquin County, as well as investigates complaints received from the public. Past reports have focused on juvenile group homes, community college and school districts, jail
operations, special districts and housing authorities.

Comments from recent past grand jurors regarding their involvement and their experiences include, “A strong desire to serve our citizens and making sure all governmental agencies are doing their job.” “I love the fact that jurors have vast knowledge in the field they have worked in, which give first-hand experience to topics discussed . . .” and, “Meeting a wide variety of community members and working together.”

Due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, applicants must be able to work via telephonic or video appearance (a smart phone and internet access are required).

A Grand Juror must be at least 18 years of age, a United States citizen who has resided in San Joaquin County for at least one year, possess sufficient knowledge of the English language, and is not now serving as a trial juror or elected public official. Qualified applicants may be interviewed by a Superior Court Judge. The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office will conduct background investigations, which includes a record check from law enforcement agencies.