Chief Justice Ronald M. George
SACRAMENTO -- The state of California will need an additional 100 judges over the next two years, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George has told state lawmakers. In his annual State of the Judiciary address to the California Legislature earlier this week, the Chief Justice said growth in caseload and population was putting a squeeze on the public's access to justice. He said the expanding gap between the numbers of cases and the availability of judges to hear them is "adversely affecting the administration of justice" in the Golden State. "Courts have been forced to shut down civil courtrooms – in some cases countywide – because criminal cases facing dismissal have priority under the law and there was an insufficient number of judges to handle all the cases," George said. He was referring to Riverside County, where explosive population growth over recent years has forced all civil courtrooms to close for several weeks at a time over the past two years. George pointed a finger of blame at the pension system applying to all California judges appointed after 1994. He called the system, which provides benefits only at age 65 after 20 years of service, "restrictive." As a result, California is losing "too many excellent candidates" for judgeships, George said. The state is "also seeing many judges leave the bench early to provide for their families," he added. However, the Chief Justice noted that the state legislature last year also enacted several requests from the judiciary. These included adding 50 new judges and raising judicial pay.