New judges, new court structure |

New judges, new court structure

Starting Jan. 3, the El Dorado County Superior Court will have a new look on the West Slope.

Presiding Judge Suzanne Kingsbury and court administration have announced the departmental assignments for the new judges and restructuring of the system.

Douglas Phimister, Daniel Proud and James Wagoner were elected to the three judgeships left vacant on the West Slope due to retirements. The assignments and organizational changes do not affect the two South Lake Tahoe departments, where Kingsbury and Judge Jerald Lasarow preside.

Proud will handle criminal trials and domestic violence restraining order matters in Department 1 at the Placerville courthouse on Main Street.

In Department 7 in the courthouse on Fairlane Court, Phimister will hear criminal arraignments, preliminary hearings and family law hearings and pretrials.

Wagoner was assigned to Department 9 in Cameron Park for all civil matters including civil harassment, guardianships and probate.

It’s an ideal fit for Wagoner, who was assistant district attorney for the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office in Placerville.

“I think it’s a real good idea because I’ve been involved in most, if not all, the cases we filed down here on the West Slope,” Wagoner said. “It’s to oppose any idea of conflict.”

Finding a fitting black robe has proven difficult for Wagoner who stands at 6-feet-4, with a 36-inch sleeve. A shop in Sacramento only carried robes for people up to 6 feet tall.

“I was hoping it would be here (this week), but because of my size I had to order it from a place in Chicago,” Wagoner said. “I just want to have something when I get sworn in.”

Assistant Presiding Judge Eddie Keller will manage the master calender for trials at the West Slope courts, criminal trials and juvenile delinquency matters in Department 2.

Family law, adoptions and juvenile dependency matters will be handled by Judge Gregory Dwyer in Department 5. Keller and Dwyer’s departments are located at the courthouse on Main Street.

A housecleaning plan will move civil matters to the Cameron Park Courthouse and criminal cases to the Main Street Courthouse.

There had been two criminal departments, one in Placerville, the other in Cameron Park. The reorganization will merge the criminal departments in Placerville, while Cameron Park will handle mostly civil cases.

People involved in family law cases without representation will have their matters heard in the Fairlane Court Courthouse where the family law facilitator is found, Kingsbury explained.

“We have sort of an unusual court in El Dorado County with five facilities scattered across almost a span of 100 miles and as a result our operations on the West Slope haven’t been as user friendly as we would like,” Kingsbury said. “Given the current state budget crisis, it’s critical for the court to make the best use of its available resources because the prospect of a new courthouse to hold all of our operations on the west end of the county, or (getting) new judges, is not on the horizon.”

Six employees will move from Cameron Park to the main courthouse. Conversely, 14 court workers will move from the main courthouse to Cameron Park, said Steve Cascioppo, court executive officer.

“At Main Street it made sense to consolidate two criminal trial courts,” Cascioppo said. “If one of the criminal judges has something settled, they could take work from across the hall.”

The judges will begin their departmental assignments Jan. 3. The reorganization is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 13.

— Contact William Ferchland at

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