Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Prosecutors Reach Compromise With Court on Impact of Closures
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Superior Court’s Executive Committee is expected to adopt a modified version of the court closure proposal made public last month when it meets today, a senior prosecutor said yesterday.
Under a compromise negotiated by the District Attorney’s Office and the court’s security director, the same three courthouses and two court lockups would be closed, but the displaced criminal caseloads would be distributed differently.
Deputy District Attorney John Spillane, head of branch and area operations for the region that includes Huntington Park, said he met on “a couple of occasions” with court Director of Security Cecil Mills, a retired judge, to discuss the compromise. Mills agreed to propose it to the Executive Committee, Spillane said.
Huntington Park Cases
The compromise affects mainly the criminal caseload of the Huntington Park courthouse. The lockups at that courthouse and the Malibu courthouse would be closed under the cost-cutting proposal, while the South Gate, Monrovia and Culver City courthouses would be closed completely.
The court’s original proposal had been to move the Huntington Park felony caseload to the downtown Metropolitan Courthouse and the misdemeanor cases to the East Los Angeles courthouse. Spillane said he and Mills reached an agreement under which felony and misdemeanor cases from the same geographic areas will be redistributed to the same courthouses, reducing the burden on prosecutors and local arresting agencies.
Under the compromise agreement:
•Cases from Bell Gardens, Bell and South Gate would go to the Downey courthouse.
•Cases arising from arrests in the Vernon, Maywood/Cudahy and East Los Angeles California Highway Patrol jurisdictions would be assigned to the East Los Angeles courthouse.
•Cases from Huntington Park would go to the Metropolitan Courthouse.
•Cases arising from arrests made by deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Norwalk/LaMirada Station would be assigned to the Bellflower courthouse.
•Cases currently being heard at the Malibu courthouse would be assigned to the Van Nuys courthouse.
The court’s original proposal called for the Malibu cases to be divided, with those involving arrests made by deputies from the Los Hills sheriff’s station to be sent to Van Nuys if the arrest was made north of Mulholland Drive but to the Airport courthouse if the arrest was made south of Mulholland Drive.
Spillane said he did not expect the Executive Committee to “tinker” with the elements of the compromise proposal dealing with the Huntington Park caseload. He added he was less sure about the outcome of the suggested charge in redistribution of the Malibu cases.
Under the compromise proposal, “felonies and misdemeanors from the cities stay together,” Spillane explained, obviating the need for local police to travel to multiple courthouses. The compromise also keeps cases closer to the cities and regions in which the crimes occurred, he said.
Court officials could not be reached yesterday for comment on the compromise, details of which were contained in a letter sent by Chief Deputy District Attorney Curt Livesay to Assistant Presiding Judge William A. MacLaughlin last week. Livesay had sent a letter to MacLaughlin on April 29 calling the division of felony and misdemeanor cases “unwarranted” and a “disservice to a segment of the community which has been historically underserved.”
The earlier letter also said the District Attorney’s Office was “disappointed” it had not been invited to provide input before the original proposal was announced.
The court has estimated the projected savings from the closures and related security upgrades at more than $4 million.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company