SLO: (805) 546-8785 | Paso Robles: (805) 226-4148

The Paso Courthouse Update

The Paso Robles Courthouse opened amid speeches by state, local, and court officials in November, 2008.  As some of those officials noted at the opening, the beautiful new facility replaced a dated facility that was stretched beyond its limits from the day it opened.  The new courthouse is the product of years of dreaming, planning, and the hard work of obtaining funding.  It is a facility that reflects the rapid growth of the North County, intended to serve the interests of North County residents and business people.

Paso Courthouse Overview

As a firm that devotes a substantial portion of its practice to civil litigation, we were happy to learn that the court decided to devote the other Paso department to the civil calendar.  New North County cases are to be filed at the Paso Robles Courthouse, while North County cases filed before the opening of the new courthouse have frequently been reassigned to the Paso Courthouse in connection with case management proceedings.  Judge Roger Picquet currently sits in the civil department in the Paso Courthouse.

From a personal perspective, we were pleased to learn that one courtroom in the Paso Courthouse was to be devoted to family law.  Family law proceedings can be particularly emotional for those involved and frequently require parties, including children, to appear in court.  With proceedings taking place during regular business hours, these appearances can be difficult for those who work or attend school during court hours.  Although the presence of the Paso Courthouse does not eliminate the need for such appearances, it does make attending easier for North County participants who work or attend school north of the Cuesta Grade.  The family law department is run by Judge Burke, who long held the family law assignment in San Luis Obispo.

In addition to two courtrooms, the Paso Courthouse is equipped with a clerk's office for filing and review of court papers, conference rooms, space for a mediator and family law facilitator, and a third hearing room that doubles as a jury assembly area.

Civil Operations to Date

With the courthouse having been open long enough to allow some of the kinks to be worked out, we were curious about the court's perspective on whether the Paso Courthouse has so far met expectations.  We were also anxious to find out what has been happening in the civil division of courthouse on a daily basis since its opening and decided the best place to start was with Judge Picquet.

Having served as City Attorney for Paso Robles while in private practice, Judge Picquet is no stranger to the North County and welcomed the opportunity to visit Paso Robles for something other than a nighttime city council meeting.  We asked Judge Picquet for his observations on the types of cases he hears at the new courthouse and the experience of working in a brand-new state-of-the-art facility.

Judge Picquet finds the new facility to be well-designed and an appropriate setting for court proceedings.  Attorneys, witnesses, and jurors have commented favorably on the new courtroom, which is equipped with monitors and other equipment that allows for easy display of exhibits.

Jurors for the Paso Robles Courthouse are selected not only from the North County but also the North Coast and San Luis Obispo.  However, jurors for the Paso Robles Courthouse are not selected from the South County.

Judge Picquet has presided over one jury trial (a personal injury action) and numerous court trials.  A substantial portion of the civil calendar is occupied by commercial and residential unlawful detainer (eviction) proceedings. In what Judge Picquet sees as a reflection of the North County economy, a substantial number of these unlawful detainer proceedings involve owner-occupied residences.  Also reflecting the time and place are numerous cases involving former hard money lenders such as Estate Financial and 21st Century Financial.

According to Judge Picquet, the North County caseload is increasing rapidly because of the way cases have been assigned to the Paso Robles Courthouse.  Although the SLO Courthouse had many existing North County cases, only cases filed since 2008 were reassigned to the new courthouse.  Since the opening of the civil department at the beginning of 2009, North County cases are immediately assigned to the Paso Courthouse.  For this reason, Judge Picquet expects the Paso civil department to catch up quickly with SLO.

Conclusion

Considering the poor conditions of many courthouses throughout the state, we in the North County are truly fortunate to have this beautiful yet functional new facility.  We encourage anyone who has not seen the new courthouse to take some time to visit.  Meanwhile, we will keep posting occasionally about developments at the courthouse.

– Posted by Michael M. McMahon, Attorney at Law

mmcmahon@carnaclaw.com