Updates on Planned Courthouses

Butte County

The state has approved a “preferred” site for a new, larger Chico courthouse in the now-vacant Meriam Park development in the southeast area of the city.

The current proposal calls for replacing two existing older courts in Chico and Paradise with a five-courtroom building on four acres north of East 20th Street and west of Bruce Road, accommodating all types of cases.

The targeted date for completing construction of the new Chico court building is 2014.

The $83.4 million court construction, which would be financed entirely through state court fees, is one of 15 such projects approved by the Legislature to move forward in fiscal year 2009-2010 in California.

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LA County

The Judicial Council of California and the Administrative Office of the Courts yesterday announced that CO Architects has been selected to design the new Southeast Los Angeles Courthouse funded under SB 1407.

CO’s work is visible on several local college campuses, including the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Claremont Hall dormitory at Claremont-McKenna University, according to the architectural firm’s website. The firm also designed the expansion and renovation of the Santa Monica College Library.

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20091014__courthouseweb_500Google map of location for new Long Beach courthouse

Plans to replace “one of the worst courthouses in California” moved forward this week when state officials supported the property acquisition for a new Long Beach Courthouse.

The State Public Works Board on Monday approved the acquisition of the 6-acre downtown site bordered by Broadway, Magnolia Avenue, Third Street and Maine Avenue for a new Long Beach Courthouse, said Administrative Office of the Courts spokesman Philip R. Carrizosa on Wednesday.

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Even before a site has been announced, architects for a new Sacramento criminal courthouse have been selected.

Local architecture firm Nacht & Lewis and the international architectural firm HOK have been chosen to design the new criminal courthouse, the Administrative Office of the Courts has announced.

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San Bernardino County

Courthouse preview offered on Oct. 29

The public will get a preview of San Bernardino County’s new courthouse on Oct. 29.

The county Superior Court and Administrative Office of the Courts has announced an open house to show off plans for the courthouse, expected to be completed in 2013.

The event will be from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Jury Assembly Room at 351 N. Arrowhead Ave. in San Bernardino.

Shasta County

A Seattle-based architecture firm has been selected to design the new Shasta County courthouse, the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) announced Thursday.

The firm NBBJ, which has offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles, is designing a new San Joaquin County courthouse in Stockton. It also designed the McConnell Foundation headquarters in Redding.

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6 responses to “Updates on Planned Courthouses

  1. Judicial observer

    It appears to this observer that these announcements and awards of contracts for new courthouses must be read in context with the post below entitled Judicial Wars: LA PJ Suggests Redirection of Monies from AOC’s Construction Fund.

    As stated in the article quoted in that post,
    “But now, with courts statewide closing once a month because of budget cutbacks, some are publicly questioning whether that money would be better spent keeping existing courtrooms open instead of building new ones.”

    Judge McCoy, the presiding Judge of the los Angeles Superior court stated, “The $53 million per year collected in Los Angeles alone translates into nearly 1,000 jobs that can be saved on an ongoing basis,”

    Los Angeles, along with many courts around the state is in a hard hiring freeze and can no longer give the service to the public they deserve in their local courts. Courts in many counties have announced the need to close some courthouses. That there is money being collected locally which could prevent this appears to be without question, if Judge McCoy is correct. However, his court and those in the other 57 counties does not control the money now in the coffers. It is being controlled, and continued to be spent by the AOC. Hence the suggestion the legislature look into a redistribution of the funds during this economic downturn.

    What is the current response by the agency who ostensibly is charged with assisting all the trial courts in Ca.? The AOC ramps up the court construction expenditures and presses a public relations campaign to raise expectation in local communities that there will be new construction in the near future.

    One assumes this is the seeking of local legislative opposition to the suggestion to divert the funds to court operations. The conclusion is this is apparently to ward off any attempt to divert those funds to keep the local trial courts in those communities open. If not, why not stall the announcements until the issue to divert some of those ongoing funds is addressed in the next legislative session? (And has their overseers at the Judicial Council even debated or considered this suggested option? Noting in their minutes suggests such.)

    Instead, they seemingly are forging ahead without even pausing to consider the option suggested. Damn the loss of jobs and the stress placed upon the local courts. Damn that there may be a workable solution to this crises now forcing the closing of courts and denial of access to justice to the citizens of each county. Damn to those like Judge McCoy who understand the critical work of our trial courts.

    It is full speed ahead with the use of the funds to save the AOC’s self interest in growing its staff and power. It is rather like a large chain department store continuing on the one hand to plan and build new and grandiose establishments during an economic crisis which is forcing them lay off employees and curtail their services on the other. It is no different that a school district building new schools concurrent with their laying off teachers and telling students to take their learning needs to the streets.

    Any legislative committee looking into the workings of this group should ask just what is their view of their responsibility in assisting the trial courts so that justice can be achieved on a daily basis? They should ask why the suggestion that the court construction funds (now collected from the actual users of the courts in each county) should not temporarily be returned to the trial courts in each county to prevent their trial court’s closures and the denial of access to justice as is now the case? They should ask if they would recommend any legislative change to accomplish the return of these funds to each county to prevent staff layoffs and hiring freezes?

  2. I agree with Judicial Observer, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like the issue of reallocating construction funds to trial court operations is going to be open to debate.

    Check out the JC Agenda for the 10/23/09 meeting, Item H – “Court Facilities: Reaffirmation of the Commitment to the
    Judicial Branch Facilities Program (Action Required)”. “Reaffirm”????? I guess some one read Judge McCoy’s quote and wanted to cut off any discussion of reallocating construction funds to operations.

    Given the budget situation, one would think that a governing body, such as the JC, might revisit a policy that requires the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars on construction projects at a time when court services are being reduced, courts closed and employees furloughed or laid off. Instead, the AOC has actually taken the time to “reaffirm” its earlier policy; basically saying that no matter the impact on court operations and public access to justice, it intends to “stay the course.”

    Just like no one disputes that there may be a need for CCMS, no one disputes that upgrading and building facilities is important. But it does not seem that the AOC/JC has any sense of priorities. The AOC may end up with the best court facilities and case managment system in the country. Unfortunately, the courts will lack the money necessary to staff the new courtrooms or operate the case management system.

    • Judicial observer

      If this agenda item is true, then it appears the action is already determined and there will be no debate by those who should be controlling the AOC decisions which continue to destroy our trial courts, demoralize the staff and judges and deny access to our public. The Judicial Council simply continues with business as usual, parrots the desires of their “ward” and covers the actions of the AOC with many rubber stamps. Just what does this group do anyhow? Go only for the dinners, museums and free rooms in San Francisco?

  3. Recommendations for Committee Review of the AOC

    I believe the legislative committee should review the following topics, as they all serve to impact the manner in which the courts are able to effectively perform their functions:

    1. The AOC should be a part of the state civil service system, if for no other reason, than to assure employment activities are open for observation to other than the Chief Justice, Vickrey, Overholt, and the poor excuses for current HR “leaders.”

    This also ensures that employees have rights they can exercise when their employment is at risk due to bullying, retaliating, screaming, and ranting and raving activities engaged in by current HR “leaders.” The current HR turnover rate impacts how the courts are able to do business. As I have heard the courts complain over the years, once the AOC provides staff who are able to assist the courts with any degree of effectiveness, they are suddenly snatched from assignment to the courts or otherwise disappear. There is something to be said for continuity.

    2. Big ticket items such as computer systems, new buildings, and other spending should be subject to review and approval by others who do not have vested interests of the current power brokers and builders; the Chief Justice, Vickrey and Overholt and those they control. e.g. Those who actually do the work, the courts should occupy a share of the seats available on such a review board.

    3. The AOC’s current practice of hiring expensive consultant firms. There has just got to be a less expensive manner of handling special project staffing.

  4. Patty Jane Smith

    Well put, Judicial Watcher, Money Watcher and Recommendations for Committee Review – I couldn’t agree more!

    I’ve noticed that today’s modified Judicial Council agenda does not include the agenda item any longer. However, there is a new agenda Item G that may generate your interest – many pages of spending and modifications, including CCMS and others.

    PS – does anyone know if it’s been a “standard technical delegation to the Administrative Director” to allow him to unilaterally adjust allocation of funds to courts and for approved programs and projects, as needed?

  5. I think everyone, including members of JC, should use a portion of their day off tomorrow to review the memo hyperlinked at Item G of the agenda for the Council’s 10.23.09 meeting http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/jc/documents/reports/102309itemg.pdf

    Hopefully someone out there knows more about fund accounting and budgets than I do. However, from what I can tell, the AOC will spend about $170 million on statewide technology projects this year. This includes, CCMS, Phoenix HR, and CLIK (which is a new one on me, but apparently something that was started in 2001 and recently revived).

    Pay particular attention to the last page, Table 4. From what I can tell, and correct me if I am wrong, the budget for CCMS development alone is $62 million. Of that amount, at least $28 million is coming from the Trial Court Trust Fund (TCTF).

    It should be noted that the “trial court’s primary source of state funding is the Trial Court Trust Fund.” (AOC Financial Policies and Procedures, Sec. 6.1.) And, “Each year the Budget Act contains an appropriation to the Judicial Council for the general operations of the trial courts. Money appropriated for trial court operations is deposited into the Trial Court Trust Fund.” (AOC Financial Policies and Procedures, Sec. 6.1.1)

    If I were a member of the JC I would like to ask AOC staff at the meeting why $28 million, which is supposed to be allocated for trial court operations, is being spent on the design and development of a computer system that is not yet deployed in the courts. Particularly when courts throughout the state are closed one day a month to cut operating costs and employees are being furloughed.

    I would also like to know if the expenditures from the TCIF and Mod Fund will deplete the reserves in those funds. It appears to me that both funds are budgeted to end the year with a zero fund balance. If this true, given the state’s budget crisis, failing to save some money in these funds seems like a questionable decision.

    Also, take a look at this sentence at page 31:

    “The original funding model and deployment strategy included a plan to deploy CCMS statewide as quickly as possible in order to begin realizing the operational and financial benefits as stated in the business case.”

    I have a couple of questions. Are they referring to the funding model that required $400 million from the legislature and $250 million from the trial courts? If I were a JC member I would want to know if that was a realistic funding model. I would want to know if the courts had $250 million set aside and committed to CCMS when the model was developed. I would also want to know if it was reasonable to assume the legislature would be willing to come up with $400 million for a computer system, when they wouldn’t come up with $17 million for conservatorship investigations. And increased conserveratorship investigations were something the legislation really wanted.

    What “operational and financial benefits”? I would want to know if these these benefits ever quantified? If so, when??

    Same question with the “business case”. Was there a business analysis performed? By whom? When? Is there a report or business plan?

    I am obviously not a JC member and will never be one. However, I think this week’s meeting presents a great opportunity for the JC to look beyond the recommendations of AOC staff. and ask some questions about the facts in support of the recommendations.