Thursday, May 20, 2004
Superior Court Delays Action on South Gate Courthouse Closure
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Superior Court Executive Committee agreed yesterday to allow more time for comment on a proposal to close the South Gate courthouse.
Assistant Presiding Judge William A. MacLaughlin said the delay came at the request of, among others, the office of state Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Norwalk. Escutia’s district includes South Gate, and she chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
MacLaughlin said the Executive Committee approved plans to close the Culver City and Monrovia courthouses, but extended the period for public comment on the proposal to shutter the South Gate facility for 15 days. A court spokesperson said the committee will again address the proposal on June 11.
A member of Escutia’s staff said the delay was requested in order to give the senator’s office more time to gather responses from the community and provide input.
Agreement With Prosecutors
MacLaughlin said the Executive Committee was advised of, but did not vote on, the details of an agreement worked out by the District Attorney’s Office with court Director of Security Cecil Mills for distributing criminal caseloads displaced by the planned elimination of lockup facilities at the Huntington Park and Malibu courthouses. No action by the committee was necessary, MacLaughlin explained, since those courthouses are not slated for closure.
When the plan to close the lockups was announced last month, court officials said felony cases previously heard at Huntington Park would be sent to the downtown Metropolitan Courthouse, while misdemeanor cases would go to the East Los Angeles courthouse. Under the agreement negotiated by Mills and Deputy District Attorney John Spillane, head of branch and area operations for the region that includes Huntington Park, cases will instead be distributed geographically, with misdemeanor and felony cases going to the same courthouses.
The compromise will minimize the need for law enforcement personnel to travel to different courthouses to testify in their felony and misdemeanor cases—an aspect of the original plan that had been harshly criticized by prosecutors.
A court spokesperson noted that though the lockup at the Malibu courthouse will be closed, that court will continue to hear non-custody criminal cases.
The closure of the Culver City and Monrovia facilities will save the Superior Court $776,000, according to estimates provided at the time the plan was announced last month. It was estimated the South Gate closure would save $622,000.
The total savings from the plan were estimated at slightly more than $4 million. That estimate included $728,000 from deactivating the two lockups, $283,000 from reduced usage of services and supplies due to the closures, and $1.1 million from courtwide revisions in weapons screening and building security activities.
.Also included in the savings total was $769,000 from deactivating the lockup at the Santa Monica courthouse and moving that facility’s criminal caseload to the Airport courthouse, a change which had been previously announced, but which will not be completed until June.
MacLaughlin said the Executive Committee also received a report on the “May revise” of the governor’s budget for the fiscal year beginning in July. The revised budget included a $40 million increase in trial court funding instead of the $59 million cut proposed in January, a change which came about after negotiations which included Chief Justice Ronald M. George and the governor’s Department of Finance.
MacLaughlin said it is too early to say what the effect of the revised proposal on the local court system would be. He noted that while the proposed budget calls for changes in the way trial courts negotiate labor agreements with their employees, it is “very nonspecific” about what those changes should be.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company