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San Francisco’s criminal trial judges face a backlog of nearly 2,500 felony and misdemeanor cases — with no quick-fix solution to get them to trial, Superior Court Judge Ksenia Tsenin said Monday. Tsenin, who presides over the master criminal calendar, said the problem is that there aren’t enough courtrooms to keep up with the caseloads. “I can’t send cases to trial if I don’t have courtrooms,” the judge said. The judge said there are 760 felonies and 1,698 misdemeanors awaiting trial. The caseload is not much improved from 2001, when the court began to take steps to address the backlog. A case count by the court in September 2001 showed there were 836 felonies that awaited trial. Misdemeanors were not included in the earlier count. The current felonies waiting for courtrooms include 32 homicides, 24 attempted murders and 38 sexual assault cases. But drug-related cases, at 319, make up the largest number of pending cases. Tsenin said the judges are looking at changing the system former Presiding Judge Ronald Quidachay instituted in February 2001. Quidachay combined the felony and misdemeanor trial calendars, which some believe clogged the master criminal calendar. In addition, arraignments and sentencing in misdemeanor cases were heard by separate judges. Before the change, misdemeanor cases, from arraignment to sentencing, were handled by one judge. Tsenin said a judges committee formed by new Presiding Judge Donna Hitchens is considering returning to the old system or finding a new way to separate felony and misdemeanor cases. Quidachay said he combined the two caseloads to ensure that all superior court judges after court consolidation in January 2001 handled both felonies and misdemeanors. “Everybody’s a judge and should be able to do anything,” he said Monday. “If you have the same title, you should have the same responsibilities.” But Tsenin and other judges think a better system can be developed to get all cases to trial earlier. They’ve asked the public defender, district attorney and private defense attorneys to help design it. “Some cases go back to 2001,” she said. “It’s not fair to the victims and it’s not fair to the defendants.”

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