A Press Democrat Blog


From the Courthouse

Wanted: Court commissioner

Sonoma County Superior Court has just closed its application period for the position of court commissioner. Commissioners are like regular judges but they are appointed by local judges instead of the governor. They must have been lawyers for at least 10 years and they are paid an annual salary of $156,000. That’s 85 percent of what a regular judge makes. Like judges, they oversee criminal and civil cases. Mostly, they handle misdemeanors, family law and traffic court cases. But they… Read More »

Sonoma court: A tale of two lines

Atticus Finch called our court system “the great leveler” where everyone is treated equally. But anyone who has waited in line outside Sonoma County’s Hall of Justice knows that isn’t true. According to a sign outside the south entrance to the building, there are two distinct classes of visitors — and they each have their own line. The first is the public. Most mornings, they wait in a line often stretching around the building to pass through a metal detector and have their bags searched before being… Read More »

Day of reckoning nears for county supervisor

 Jury selection will begin Monday in Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo’s misdemeanor peeking trial and witness testimony should start mid-week, a judge said Wednesday. The schedule was set as both sides in Carrillo’s much-publicized criminal case announced they could not reach a settlement and were prepared to try the matter in court. Judge Gary Medvigy ordered Carrillo’s lawyer and a prosecutor for the state Attorney General to appear Friday to argue any pre-trial motions. They would return Monday to begin… Read More »

Two candidate forums coming in April in Sonoma DA’s race

Sonoma County’s district attorney and her June 3 election challenger will square off in two public forums in April. The first joint appearance of incumbent Jill Ravitch and deputy prosecutor Victoria Shanahan is noon on April 18 at Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove Inn. The event, which includes lunch, is sponsored by Sonoma County Women in Law and the Sonoma County Bar Association. Admission is $55 for members and $20 for students. Check-in starts at 11:30 a.m. and the forum runs until 1:15 p.m.… Read More »

Confrontation with embattled mall security guards leads to lawsuit

Santa Rosa Plaza mall cops are under fire these days for the treatment of grieving family members who were ordered to remove “RIP” T-shirts bearing the image of a 13-year-old son killed by a sheriff’s deputy. But the dust-up involving family and friends of eighth-grader Andy Lopez, who was shot to death last fall, is not the only trouble facing U.S. Security Associates and mall owners Simon Property Group. A Healdsburg man is suing both companies for a June 26… Read More »

1st Graton casino robbery a blow to retired veteran

Dennis Shelley took his share of punches many years ago as a college boxer but the hardest blow he ever felt came Christmas Eve in the parking lot of Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park. The 68-year-old American Canyon man walked out to his car around sunrise after a night spent “losing money” at the baccarat tables. Shelley, who is diabetic, was planning to take his daily insulin injection when two men came from behind, grabbed his arms and… Read More »

Judge: deputy in Lopez shooting not relevant in other gun case

It was a typical assault rifle case with little defense other than pure ignorance. Prosecutors charged former Santa Rosa resident Alan MacFarlane with felony possession of a tactical-style weapon after police entered his home during a neighborhood dispute and found banned gun parts scattered about. MacFarlane, a 60-year-old disabled veteran, was planning to argue he didn’t know the parts were illegal at his upcoming trial. It was an approach that failed at a preliminary hearing, when a judge ruled there was sufficient… Read More »

Shoplifter lawsuit highlights retail dilemma

Sometimes it’s better to just let things go. That could be the mantra for overprotective retail clerks and loss-prevention agents everywhere following a lawsuit in Santa Rosa civil court by a would-be shoplifter who was badly injured when he was tackled by a grocery store manager. The clash happened July 13, 2011 when plaintiff Johnny Ramirez was stealing a bottle of rum from the Rohnert Park Raley’s, according to a tentative ruling from Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Arthur Wick.  Ramirez tucked the glass bottle into his… Read More »