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Name: People v. Superior Court (Tapia) (2023) 93 Cal.App.5th 394
Case #: E080076
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 07/11/2023
Subsequent History: Opn. modified 8/2/2023

Trial court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed defendant’s case based on a finding that its pre-COVID chronic backlog was not good cause to extend Penal Code section 1382’s presumptive 60-day trial deadline. Defendant’s last day for trial under section 1382 was October 26, 2022, but there were no available courtrooms. Defendant successfully moved to dismiss his case. The trial court found there was no good cause to continue defendant’s trial because, although exceptional circumstances had justified past continuances during the pandemic, defendant could not be timely tried due to the court’s chronic backlog that was related to, but not caused by, the pandemic. The district attorney petitioned for a writ of mandate. Held: Petition denied. Good cause does not exist when the lack of a judge or courtroom available to timely bring a criminal defendant to trial is fairly and reasonably attributable to the fault or neglect of the state. Court congestion therefore does not constitute good cause unless it is caused by exceptional circumstances. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court reasonably found that the failure to timely bring defendant to trial was attributable to the state as a result of the superior court’s “chronic congestion that has existed for nearly two decades and remains unresolved to this day . . . .” [Editor’s Note: A concurring opinion expressed concerns that the opinion could be read to suggest that a severely underfunded court could be the sole justification for a dismissal. Additional information, such as an explanation as to why there may be fewer judges handling trials or why the current judges may be handling fewer trials, should be required rather than mere case disposition statistics.]