Category Archives: Courthouses

Los Angeles Lays Off Hundreds of Court Employees

For almost a year now Judge McCoy of Los Angeles Superior Court has been stating that if things didn’t improve financially for his court he would have no choice but to lay off hundreds of court staff and close courts.  He’s also been one of the more vocal proponents of having court construction funds redirected back to county courts to help them with their budget deficits and to prevent mass layoffs.

Now we find out today from the Daily Journal that Judge McCoy has done what he has said he’d have no choice but to do if things didn’t improve.

The Los Angeles Superior Court plans to issue pink slips to 329 employees today, amid a dispute with the state agency that oversees the courts, which maintains the layoffs are “unnecessary.”

The bulk of the layoffs will affect clerical assistants and court services assistants, according to a court spokesman. Among the possible cuts is the call center at Metropolitan Courthouse, which processes traffic tickets and handles up to 2,000 calls a day. Notified employees will be placed on administrative leave and paid until the end of March, but will not be reporting to their posts after today.

Court officials are also expected to announce the closure of more than 12 courtrooms throughout the county. They declined to provide further detail of which ones are facing closure until the announcement is made.

The cuts loom as the top official at the Administrative Office of the Courts, which has authority over the state’s trial courts, publicly questioned whether Presiding Judge Charles “Tim” McCoy’s decision to lay off employees was necessary.

The AOC and Justice George have, according to the article, taken Judge McCoy’s threats of layoffs and closing courts as a “Chicken Little approach.”  Well, if they thought this was Judge McCoy playing a game of chicken, he’s definitely called their bluff.

You can read more coverage on the layoffs by clicking the links below.

L.A. Superior court cuts 329 employees – SF Examiner

First wave of layoffs claims 50 employees from courthouses – dailybreeze.com

Local courts lay off more than 300 workers – Press Telegram

Los Angeles Superior Court announces layoffs and courtroom closures – 89.3 KPCC

L.A. Trial Courts Undergoing Mass Layoff – Courthouse News Service

LA Times Profile of Judge Charles McCoy

Charles “Tim” McCoy, presiding judge of the Los Angeles County Superior
Court, wants to divert state money for court repairs and construction and
instead use it to offset deep budget cuts.  (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times / July 15, 2009)

At times, he says, he’s a pilot flying at 30,000 feet with engine problems; other times, he’s at the helm of a sinking boat that’s quickly running out of gas.

Whatever the analogy, Los Angeles County Presiding Judge Charles “Tim” McCoy’s message is loud and clear: His court system, the largest trial court in the nation, is facing deep fiscal trouble in the years ahead due to drastic cuts in state government funding.

To save his court from ruin, McCoy has advocated tapping a pool of money that’s supposed to fund court repairs and construction. But the proposed money-grab is ruffling feathers in other parts of the state, setting up a rare political tussle among the state’s judges.

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LA Times Prints Response to their Editorial Supporting Court Construction

I posted a blog post about the LA Times writing an editorial in favor of not diverting funds from the court construction funds. In response, the LA Times published a response by Arnella Sims. I’m reprinting the letter to the editor in its entirety.

Keep California’s courts open
Failure to divert available funds to avoid layoffs and closures would have catastrophic effects on our economy.
Blowback
February 11, 2010|By Arnella Sims

Economists, law enforcement officials and political and business leaders all agree: A healthy economy and our civil society depend on having timely, reliable access to our justice system. But you wouldn’t know it reading The Times’ Feb. 10 editorial, “Rebuilding California’s courts.”

It’s true that California’s aging courts infrastructure must be upgraded, which is exactly why it makes no sense to lay off 30% of Los Angeles’ court employees, who collect parking tickets, criminal fines and other fees — in other words, dollars that are necessary to retrofit aging and unsafe courthouses. Nor does it make sense to close courthouses while constructing new halls of justice in an effort to improve public access.

The Administrative Office of the Courts, or AOC — which oversees court operations statewide — has already forced closures of Los Angeles County courts one day each month. Anyone who has visited a courthouse knows the impact these closures have had on our system of justice, with longer wait times and more crowded courtrooms. Consequently, children in foster care, victims of domestic violence and other crimes, families trying to adopt children and others who rely on timely resolution of their cases are denied the justice they deserve. Imagine how much worse the impact will be when one-third of court workers and 30% of courtrooms operating now are gone.

Closing about 180 Los Angeles county courtrooms over the next few years, which the budget cuts require, would have a devastating effect on our local economy and impact even those who never set foot in a courtroom. A Dec. 2009 study by a local economic research firm found that if court closures continue, 150,000 people could lose their jobs and the state would suffer from $30 billion in lost economic activity.

Without the certainty that cases will be resolved in a timely manner, businesses that rely on our courts don’t have the assurance they need to operate normally. Litigation delays tie up economic resources. Whether a dispute involves a payment, land development or another matter, the financial and other assets in question cannot be put to use when caseloads pile up and resolutions are delayed. This is the last thing we need with unemployment in Los Angeles County already sky high and our families and businesses still facing economic uncertainty.

LA Times Editorial Board Comes Out In Favor of Court Construction

Editorial
Rebuilding California’s courts

It’s time to put money designated for construction to work doing that, not funding ongoing operations.

In 2008, the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed to increase the cost of parking tickets and a range of other civil and criminal fines and fees to raise money to begin repairing and rebuilding dangerous, outdated and inaccessible courthouses across the state. But almost as soon as the higher fees were in place, lawmakers and the governor declared a budget emergency and temporarily diverted much of the new money to fund ongoing court operations.

Now the state’s biggest trial court, the Los Angeles County Superior Court, sees years of further budget shortfalls ahead and says that it may need to lay off as much as a third of its nonjudicial staff over the next three years to make ends meet. To avoid those layoffs and, more to the point, to avert a large-scale courtroom shutdown that could delay justice for many litigants — from residents seeking divorce and child custody to corporations suing one another — court leaders here want to put off the construction program for at least one more year so they can again divert the money to operations.

But such diversions cannot go on forever. There almost certainly will never be a time when courts are so knee-deep in money that judges, court administrators and Sacramento lawmakers will lose all temptation to grab the construction funds. Today’s court operations funding problem could well be severe, but so is the need to replace or repair dozens of ramshackle, outmoded, unsafe and just plain inconveniently located courtrooms in many of California’s 58 counties, including Los Angeles. The funds — authorized by legislation known as SB 1407 — should finally be allowed to do their work.

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Judicial Wars: Judge and Union Leader Unite In Opposition to Redirecting Court Construction Funds

They say politics make for strange bedfellows.  Still, it was quite interesting to read an opinion piece printed in the Capitol Weekly in which the authors of the piece voiced their opposition to any plan to redirect court construction funds away from building new courts and back into the budgets of courts facing severe budget deficits.  What really made the piece interesting was that the authors were Judge Mary Ann O’Malley, presiding judge of Contra Costa County, and Bob Balgenorth who is listed as “president of the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California, which represents about 800,000 construction workers.”

If anyone thought naively that the fight over court construction funds was going to be a simple affair, they need only look at this article as a taste of what’s to come. The fight ahead is going to be incredibly emotional for both sides it has the possibility of turning into an ugly mud fight turning allies into enemies.

Designs for New Long Beach Courthouse Revealed

From the Press-Telegram newspaper.

LONG BEACH – The three teams vying for the chance to design and operate the new downtown courthouse have proposed a mix of modern and classic architectural designs and features ranging from rooftop terraces and landscaped courtyards to atriums meant to inspire transparency.

Oh, how rich. A courthouse “meant to inspire transparency.” If only that design plan could apply to this place.

I’m including the three photos of the new courthouse.

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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Sacramento

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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