Tuesday, May 4, 2004
Prosecutors Knock Plan to Move Huntington Park Criminal Cases
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A Los Angeles Superior Court plan relocate the entire criminal caseload of the Huntington Park courthouse was criticized yesterday by top members of the county District Attorney’s Office.
The plan to send Huntington Park’s felony cases to the Metropolitan Courthouse and its misdemeanors to East Los Angeles “is a disservice to a segment of the community which has been historically underserved” and will burden victims and witnesses unnecessarily, Chief Deputy District Attorney Curt Livesay told Assistant Presiding Judge William MacLaughlin.
Livesay made his April 29 letter to MacLaughlin public yesterday, and told the MetNews that he had not been contacted by MacLaughlin or anyone in court administration as of late yesterday afternoon. MacLaughlin was not immediately available for comment, but court spokesman Allan Parachini told City News Service the court was “very open to hearing” from Livesay or District Attorney Steve Cooley about potential alternatives.
The court told staff members on April 21, and gave official notice last week, that it intends to save $4 million in security costs through a series of budget moves, including relocating the Huntington Park cases. The Huntington Park courthouse would then take on civil and traffic cases from the South Gate courthouse once that is closed.
The Culver City and Monrovia courthouses are also slated to be closed under the plan. The lockup in Malibu would be closed, although the court would continue to hear non-custodial misdemeanors.
Livesay elaborated on his letter yesterday, explaining that the court made it “sound like a done deal” when it told staff members at Huntington Park that the last day there will be June 25 and that they will be processing cases at Metropolitan Court and East Los Angeles on June 28.
But Livesay said he hoped the court will seriously consider alternatives developed by a task force headed by Deputy District Attorney John Spillane.
Spillane, head of branch and area operations for the region that includes Huntington Park, said prosecutors, who have to struggle with their own budget issues, understand why the use of the aging Huntington Park facility for criminal cases is to end. But the reallocation can be accomplished in a way that reduces the time for police officers and other witnesses to travel to and from court, the prosecutor insisted.
One approach, he said, would be to divide all of the Huntington Park cases, felony and misdemeanor, between three courthouses—Metropolitan, Downey, and East Los Angeles—based on geography, with all cases handled by a specific law enforcement agency going to the same courthouse.
The major agencies involved—the Sheriff’s Department and the Bell, Bell Gardens, Maywood, and Vernon police departments—would support that approach, Spillane said.
Another idea would be to redraw the boundary between the court’s Southeast and Central Districts, Spillane said, so that all felonies from the area now served by Huntington Park would come to the Foltz Criminal Justice Center downtown.
While not an optimum solution, he said, that would at least spare the District Attorney’s Office from having to find new, outside office space from which to serve the Metropolitan Courthouse. The existing district attorney space there, he said, is not going to be adequate to handle all of the Huntington Park caseload.
Spillane also criticized the plan to split the Malibu caseload by having non-custody cases remain in the coastal city while custodies are moved to Van Nuys and the Airport courthouse. This will require his office to keep a staff in Malibu while increasing the load at the other courthouses, he said.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company