The omicron surge is hurting some public services, including the court system in Yolo County, where all jury trials are currently postponed at least through early February.
Superior Court Judge Tim Fall says this situation adds to the stress already present from the ongoing pandemic.
He wrote recently about dealing with anxiety and stress in a book called, "Running for Judge: Campaigning on the Trail of Despair, Deliverance, and Overwhelming Success."
He spoke with CapRadio’s Randol White.
Judge, not all counties in the Sacramento region have shut down jury trials in their Superior courtrooms as a result of the surge. Where does Yolo County stand now and what's the reasoning behind it?
We're actually operating fully except for jury trials. And the reason for that is to avoid bringing people in large numbers into the courthouse. We would have anywhere from 45 to 55 people appearing for jury selection. And with the latest surge, we found that that was something that we did not feel we could do and still address the public health issues. So we asked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. And she gave us an emergency order to postpone trials for a 30 day period.
The U.S. Constitution, of course, gives us the right to a speedy trial. How does Yolo County avoid breaking federal law when cases are postponed in this way?
I don't want to get too much into details of what the speedy trial rights are, except to say that we're doing our best to keep everybody's cases moving. And while the Constitution does say “speedy trial,” it doesn't have some sort of time limit that can't be exceeded.
You've written about the challenges of managing anxiety within your profession. How does this current situation affect your ability to do so now?
Pandemic stress is real, and we are all dealing with that. So for someone like me, as you know, I have an anxiety disorder and being a judge has its own super stressors that go on top of that. And then we've got the pandemic stress. And so it's a matter of now accommodating all of that as well.
You have this book out now, and I'm wondering, have you had any backlash regarding your opening up about mental illness struggles and then your job as a Superior Court judge?
I've had it both ways. A lot of people have reached out and said they appreciate me talking about it. A number of judges have written me emails or given me phone calls saying that they're glad somebody is talking about this because nobody who is in an elected position or an official government position goes around admitting they have an anxiety disorder, it seems.
I've also heard from a couple of people that it's just improper for a judge to admit having a mental illness, and how dare I do that as a judge. Which just goes to show that we really do need to talk about it because the stigma that's attached to mental illness, as if there's some defect like a moral deficiency, if you have an anxiety disorder or something else, that's just nuts. You know, that's what keeps people from getting treatment. And the reason I wrote the book and the reason I'm talking to you now is encouraging people. This is something that, like any other medical condition, you should get help for.
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