455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102-3688
Re: Emergency Rules in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic Dear Chief Justice and Members:
As elected representatives of the County of Tulare, we are writing to express our opposition to certain aspects of the "Emergency Rules" issued by the Judicial Council ("JCC") on April 6, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While we understand and appreciate the JCC's intent and its need to assist our local courts in managing their affairs during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, we believe the JCC's Emergency Rules did not strike the right balance between public health and public safety, at least in Tulare County.
By way of background, on March 11, 2020 Tulare County' s Local Health Officer proclaimed and declared that a local health emergency now exists in the County of Tulare due to the presence of and threat posed by COVID-19. The Tulare County Board of Supervisors unanimously ratified said proclamation at its regular meeting of March 17, 2020 and has taken all steps requested by the County Health Officer to implement and support that determination. As of the date of this letter, there are 296 positive cases of infection in Tulare County, with 13 deaths. From all publically available information, none of the deaths has involved Court, law enforcement, or jail personnel, or jail prisoners. In fact, the County and Tulare County Sheriff Michael Boudreaux have and continue to implement robust plans and procedures to keep our jail inmates safe from the virus and any other threats to their health that may occur. Through these efforts, the County has protected public health while also protecting public safety by continuing to incarcerate inmates serving out their local sentences or determined to be too dangerous to release pending trial or other disposition of their cases. It is important to note that our local jails are not overcrowded and so do not pose the COVID-19 health risks to prisoners and staff that are alleged to exist in other correctional facilities.
Despite the success of our local efforts to protect both public health and public safety, by its Emergency Rule 4 the JCC has usurped local decision making and decided that potentially dangerous inmates must be released from our jail on $0 bail without regard to the threat they may pose to their victims and the general public. Rule 4 establishes a statewide "Emergency Bail Schedule" and commands all superior courts to apply that schedule by 5 p.m. on April 10, 2020 to every accused person arrested and in or held in pretrial custody within their counties. Under the "Emergency Bail Schedule, cash bail for all misdemeanors and felonies must be set at $0, with specified exceptions.
superior courts to apply that schedule by 5 p.m. on April 10, 2020 to every accused person arrested and in or held in pretrial custody within their counties. Under the "Emergency Bail Schedule, cash bail for all misdemeanors and felonies must be set at $0, with specified exceptions.
We believe there are serious problems with aspects of Emergency Rule 4. First, the April 10 deadline provides too little time for the Courts and its criminal justice partners to properly assess each case and make appropriate recommendations/decisions about bail and/or release. More time must be given to permit all parties to do their due diligence before mass jail releases take place. Secondly, Rule 4's enumerated exceptions to the Emergency Bail Schedule should have included the offenses detailed in correspondence from the California District Attorneys Association, to wit:
Additionally, Rule 4 should be amended to consider the vulnerability of our small businesses during this pandemic. Businesses have closed in order to comply with State and Federal mandates, not only leaving them in precarious positions financially, but also leaving their physical brick and mortar businesses vulnerable to vandalism and burglaries. Property crime on its face is not considered violent, however our local law enforcement and prosecutors need the ability to analyze and access the risk to our community when a repeat offender is arrested for commercial burglary, released without bail, and then re-arrested the next day for the exact same offense. Such quality of life crimes are crimes that eat away at the well-being and fabric of our communities; but now, more than ever, we have to consider the impact that theft and vandalism can have on our businesses as they are teetering on the brink of extinction. It matters to them, it matters to their employees, and it needs to matter to the Courts and the entire criminal justice system as well.
We are asking that crimes committed while out on bail be considered under the same category as the excepted offenses so that our criminal justice partners can do everything they can to protect our community during this crisis.
Thus, under the list of excepted offenses, we strongly urge you to consider adding Penal Code Section 12022.1, which addresses crimes committed while a person is out of custody either on bail or his/her own recognizance. This allegation should apply whether or not the principal charge is listed as a serious/violent or otherwise excepted offense. It does not apply to misdemeanor cases.
Additionally, we recommend Rule 4 include an exception for repeat, chronic offenders who have either a history of failures to appear or violations of probation.
In the interests of preserving public safety, we request that the JCC revisit Emergency Rule 4 and amend it to provide discretion for our local judges, in concert with local prosecutors, Probation Officers, Public Defenders, and private and conflict defense counsel, to make individualized assessments of the both the public health threat posed by COVID-19 and the threat to public and victim safety posed by the release of pretrial detainees on $0 cash bail. As presently written, Emergency Rule 4 would seem to be a prime example of a situation where one size does not fit all. Please restore to our local officials the tools they need to keep our communities truly safe in these uncertain times.
Board hires Tammie Weyker-Adkins as new Chief of Staff.
Tulare County Fire Department has begun our annual Hazard Abatement Program for this year.
The Tulare County Clerk-Recorder will begin scheduling appointments Monday, May 4
Nicole Motley, has been promoted to Deputy Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer in charge of the Pest Exclusion & Standardization Division by Tulare’s Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer