OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — A move by Alameda County officials to consolidate many services from two Oakland court houses to a new court house in Dublin has some critics saying the change will adversely affect low-income defendants and their families.
The two courthouses in Oakland impacted by the move are located on 1225 Fallon Street and 661 Washington Street.
It’s a fight for justice that is happening outside the courtroom.
Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods and Alameda County Courts CEO Chad Finke are at odds over moving first-time court appearances for suspects who cannot afford to post bail from Oakland nearly 30 miles southeast to the brand new courthouse in Dublin.
“I think some people believe it’s a done deal, but we are fighting it,” said Woods.
“We need to be fiscally responsible and fiscally accountable,” countered Finke.
The public defender argues this is the epitome of social injustice for low-income suspects.
“If you have the means and resources, then you are treated differently,” said Woods. “You have a different level of justice that applies to you. This move to Dublin highlights that and impacts that.”
Woods told KPIX 5 low-income family members might not be able to afford to trek from Oakland to Dublin.
“When family members aren’t there to provide information on someone who is in custody, they stay in longer,” said Woods.
Finke says this $150 million courthouse was built to take some of the strain off the overwhelmed county court system.
“I think this is absolutely necessary,” explained Finke.
He added most in custody suspects are already in Dublin at the Santa Rita Jail. The county pays to transport those suspects back and forth for those court appearances.
“I think it would be very difficult to explain why do you have this brand new courthouse right across from the jail and you’re not doing arraignments in it,” said Finke.
Woods still disagrees.
“Custody rates will go up. That’s a lot more expensive than a little bit of gas money to drive from Dublin to Oakland,” said Woods.
Woods told KPIX his office is working closely with the ACLU to see if any legal action can be taken to force the court to reverse the decision.
The court does plan to offer a free shuttle service from the Oakland BART station to Dublin for family members hoping to attend arraignment hearings