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Federal judge shortage severely harming justice in Kern County

The district serves an area of about eight million people (KBAK/KBFX Photo).{ }
The district serves an area of about eight million people (KBAK/KBFX Photo).
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It's been called a judicial emergency.

"There is no justice being served in retrospect to anything,” Jerrad Johnson said.

Currently, the federal court district that includes us here in Kern County, only has one single judge.

That means there are five positions presently sitting unfilled in an area that covers the cases of about eight million people.

"We've got one judge to handle roughly 1700 cases that have been, at this point in time, postponed indefinitely,” Johnson said.

It's these extreme circumstances that have brought together people from all over Kern County.

Some of those include Jerrad Johnson, whose father, Lee Johnson, was nearly killed by an explosion at his work back in December 2018.

Others include the children of Nancy Joyce Garrett, a woman who died in September 2014 after being hit by a KCSO patrol car.

"We've had two trial dates. One has passed, and the other was supposed to be April. That's not going to happen,” said Mark McGowan, the son of Garrett.

As their cases slid further and further into the backlog in an overburdened system, both sets of families have tried reaching out to elected officials hoping to get some sort of help.

But with little luck so far, they're turning to the public in the hopes that by shining a light on this little-known problem, they might be able to make a difference.

Not just for them, but also for everyone else.

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"It's unconscionable that this has been allowed to happen. It's not like they woke up yesterday and we didn't have any judges. This has been going on for a long time,” McGowan said.

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