Friday, April 8, 2011
New Courthouse Will Be Tribute to Branch Leadership, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye Says
Dignitaries Gather as Ground is Broken for Long Beach Facility Named for Deukmejian
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye touted the commencement of construction for a new court facility in Long Beach at a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday as proof of the foresight and effective leadership of the branch.
In what the chief justice said is likely a first in this country, the project is being overseen by the Administrative Office of the Courts but financed by a consortium from the private sector. That demonstrates how the judiciary “is always taking innovative leadership ideas and executing them” and willing “to try things in new ways,” she said.
Cantil-Sakauye claimed the “genesis of this project” was the “foresight” of the 2002 Court Facilities Act, which turned over courthouse management to the state, and said she was a “grateful observer” of “the extraordinary leadership that brings this project to bear.”
Her remarks were delivered to an assemblage of several hundred guests including Supreme Court Justices Ming W. Chin and Marvin R. Baxter; Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, Alternate Public Defender Janice Fukai, and about two dozen bench officers.
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Lee S. Edmon, who served as the master of ceremonies, quipped that the jurists who serve in Long Beach were easily identifiable because they were “the ones with the biggest smiles on their faces.”
Administrative Director of the Courts William C. Vickrey told the audience that the project “really demonstrates that the government does work on behalf of the public that it serves” and represented the “potential of what we hope to replicate across California.”
Sen. Alan S. Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, suggested the project was also “a direct repudiation” of the idea that Democrats and Republicans are unable to cooperate, and shows “if we work together with a common purpose, we can do great things.”
Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, called the project “a testament to optimism and all that is best about California.” She has been a recent vocal critic of Vickrey and AOC governance, and unlike the other speakers, did not bestow any praise upon court leaders in her remarks.
All of the speakers, however, commended former Gov. George Deukmejian, in whose honor the courthouse has been named.
Alan Lowenthal said Deukmejian “is truly an idol, and worthy of our respect and our love,” while Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster called him a “man of impeccable capability, integrity and intelligence.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe described the former governor as a “respected bridge builder,” whose abilities to bring political factions together had served him well in politics.
Knabe then turned to Deukmejian, and drew an appreciative laugh from the audience by noting when Deukmejian served as governor, he succeeded Jerry Brown. “I just thought I’d throw that out there,” he said.
After being presented with a framed artist’s rendering of the building, Deukmejian commented that he was “glad it’s a long building, because I have a long name.”
He received a standing ovation from the audience as he took the podium, where he joked he thought “the only two ways to get your name on a building” were to “donate a lot of money” or “be dead.” Deukmejian said he did not have $500 million, as evinced by the fact that he drives a 15-year old car with “more miles on it than Willie Nelson’s tour bus.”
“I’m not dead either,” he added, “but that could change.”
Deukmejian appeared to grow more somber as he discussed his upbringing as the son of immigrants and how he “came west in search of opportunity” as a young man.
“I never dreamed this day would come,” he said. After 23 years of public service and 83 years of life, Deukmejian suggested, “I can finally say I don’t think they’ll summon me for jury duty.”
Edmon, however, quickly dissuaded him of this idea, telling Deukmejian:
“Sorry, we summon everybody.”
In addition to such levity, the ceremony was also punctuated by strong gusts of wind, which prompted Foster, Knabe and Alan Lowenthal to leave their seats on the dais to hold onto poles supporting the tent where the festivities were taking place at the intersection of Magnolia Avenue and Third Street in downtown Long Beach.
The six-acre site is slated to be developed with a 31-courtroom, 650,000 square foot court facility, targeted for occupancy in 2013. This new building will replace the current courthouse, which was built in 1959 and suffers from “fundamental flaws,” overcrowding, dilapidation and a failure to meet accessibility requirements,” according to an AOC release.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company