- Associated Press - Thursday, September 3, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A Humboldt County Superior Court judge was reprimanded Thursday for failing to issue timely decisions in 20 cases and submitting false affidavits that claimed he was up to speed with his work.

The public admonishment for misconduct was the second time Judge Dale Reinholtsen has been disciplined by the state Commission on Judicial Performance for case delays.

Reinholtsen signed salary affidavits seven times that falsely claimed he did not have any decisions pending more than 90 days, the commission said. The judge received his salary in violation of a law that requires paychecks to be withheld until overdue work is completed.

A lawyer representing the judge said there’s no excuse for the delays and that the judge accepted the admonishment. But attorney W. Timothy Needham said the decision failed to reflect how overwhelmed judges are in the small, rural county. There are currently seven judges and one commissioner. State court administrators determined in 2012 that 10 judges were needed.

Reinholtsen worked 12 to 14 hour days, six days a week, according to affidavits submitted on his behalf, Needham said.

“If the system is broken due to judicial cutbacks and they don’t have the judges to do the work, it becomes impossible to get the work done,” Needham said.

The commission did note that the average workload in Humboldt County appears to exceed the statewide average, but it said that as presiding judge in 2013 and 2014, Reinholtsen could have delegated some of his caseload.

Needham said Reinholtsen couldn’t dump cases on other judges.

The commission said it took into account that Reinholtsen delayed signing affidavits on many occasions when decisions were overdue and that he had made efforts to avoid similar future misconduct.

Reinholtsen received a disciplinary letter from the commission in 2002 for a one-year delay in a case.

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