QUESTION: Now that the election is over, is there a way to check on the performance and meeting attendance of those elected in our county?
ANSWER: The minutes of every Board of Supervisors meeting, as well as the agendas for various committees and commissions, is available on the Tuolumne County website: tuolumnecounty.ca.gov.
In 2018, the supervisors met 33 times — twice a month in regular meetings plus specially called meetings and a three-day planning retreat. All supervisors were on hand for 21 of those meetings. No supervisor had perfect attendance.
Supervisor Evan Royce missed the most with five absences and one late arrival (14 minutes — they keep track of these things). Sherri Brennan missed three, Karl Rodefer two and appeared once by phone, John Gray and Randy Hanvelt missed one each.
Of interest also is the list of meetings of commissions and committees, many of which, like the Airport Advisory Committee, meet infrequently.
Performance is a bit subjective — although a review of the minutes for the past year show most, if not all, votes were unanimous among the supervisors. One way to decide how they’re doing is to go online and watch the video of each meeting. Let us know what you see.
QUESTION: I believe most people are of the same mindset when it comes to jury duty. It’s an annoyance and can be a pain, but it is a civic responsibility. I know I would want 12 open-minded, fair jurors to hear a case that might be brought against me. But why is the system set up to aggravate, inconvenience and penalize the prospective jurors? Why is it that a prospective juror must call a number with a recording after 6 p.m. the night before the trial/jury selection begins? This leaves people who have to work for a living in limbo right up to almost the last minute as to how to plan for the next day or days. All of this inconvenience and aggravation just so that the defense lawyer and their client can play some sort of crazy brinkmanship game with the prosecutor as to whether the accused is going to take a plea deal or go to court? I believe there should be a two-week cut off before the trial date to take the plea bargain or go to court with no changes allowed. I’ve asked court personnel this question numerous times throughout the years and all I get back are lame excuses. Why can’t that rule be instituted in all fairness?
ANSWER: Superior Court Judge Donald Segerstrom said the answer, like most in the law, is not so simple, but he believes the jury summons process is meant to minimize inconvenience.
He said 300 or so people are summoned 30 days before a criminal trial begins and anything can happen in the time before the trial date, from a plea to the prosecution dropping the charges. Also, something can come up — a witness is unavailable, for example — causing the trial to be continued.
“If this occurs after the two week ‘cut off’ you propose, we would have no practical way of notifying the jurors they are not required,” Segerstrom said in an email. “In other words, the purpose of having jurors call in the night before they are required to appear is to save them the inconvenience of actually coming to court when we know they will not be needed.”
Names and addresses come from the County Elections Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the court doesn’t have phone numbers for all of those called.
“It is much more efficient to have the prospective jurors call in to hear a recording than for court staff to attempt to call 300 or more people on short notice, particularly when we don’t have phone numbers for all the prospective jurors, Segerstrom said.
To change the way juries are summoned would require changing the Code of Civil Procedure, the Government Code and the California Rules of Court. In other words, state action.
Before the rule, people had to appear in court every day for a week or possibly several weeks.
“In 2007 the Judicial Council enacted California Rules of Court, rule 2.1002, which has come to be known as the “One Day — One Trial” rule,” Segerstrom said. “This rule provides that once potential jurors are summoned, they fulfill their jury service obligation if they: 1) Serve on one trial until discharged; 2) Were assigned to a trial department for jury service until discharged; 3) Attended court but were not assigned to a trial department that day; 4) Served one day in a system where they were notified that day of the time they were required to appear; or 5) Served up to 5 days on telephone standby.”
He said in Tuolumne County, telephone standby is for one day.
“Again, our intention is to minimize, not aggravate, the inconvenience to the prospective jurors,” he said.
Another local rule is that the prosecution and defense must meet to try to dispose of the case without trial before the trial readiness conference.
“This local rule is intended to address exactly the ‘brinkmanship’ that you decry,” Segerstrom said. “The court may not, however, engage in direct plea bargaining with a defendant. The court’s role is to accept or reject a proposed plea bargain. Further, the court has an overriding obligation to see that justice is done in any given case.”
QUESTION: What is this "dark web" we hear so much about lately? The web's the web, right?
ANSWER: Well, no, the web is not the web. Tech experts say the web is like an iceberg, where only the tip is showing and the great expanse of the berg lingers out of view. The dark web hides out in places search engines like Google and Bing can’t find. You need a special encryption tool to find the dark web. Many people apparently use TOR, which you can find through a traditional search engine. TOR also protects your identity just as it protects that of the people behind the websites you visit.
Techadvisor.com" class="auto" target="_blank">dir="ltr">Techadvisor.com says the dark web can be a scary place, but it is also a place where people who live in totalitarian states can communicate with the outside world.
QUESTION: Last year there was a stretch of road repaved on Highway 108 starting on Washington Street up past Mono Way. Driving home at night, I have noticed many of the reflectors that were placed on both sides of the double-yellow lines in the center are now missing. Kind of a short life wouldn’t you say? I was wondering if there were any plans of replacing them? And, if so, who would bear the cost? Seems like shoddy work by Caltrans? All the reflectors are still in place on the portion that wasn’t repaved. Hmmm.
ANSWER: Rick Estrada, spokesman for Caltrans, said in an email the reflectors will be replaced when Caltrans installs rumble strips on the edge of the road in the spring. Caltrans pays to replace them. He didn’t address the shoddy work part of the question.