Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Hollywood Courthouse’s Lockup, Two Others May Be Closed
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
The lockup facility at the Hollywood Courthouse is one of three in the county that the Los Angeles Superior Court is considering closing as one step toward dealing with the current budget crisis, court officials confirmed yesterday.
The Hollywood facility would continue to handle non-custody misdemeanor cases but would cease to hold hearings for defendants who remain in custody after their arrest or who could be remanded into custody, under a proposal before the court’s Executive Committee tomorrow.
Assistant Presiding Judge-elect William MacLaughlin, who chairs the court’s Personnel and Budget Committee, confirmed that the lockup could be closed at the Hollywood Courthouse but declined to name lockups at two other courts that also are on the block.
“We’ll probably look at lockups at every facility,” especially those at the smallest courthouses that have a low volume of custody cases, MacLaughlin said.
As part of a program to slash costs begun within the last several weeks, the court is trying to cut $10 million from its $105 million contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for bailiffs, lockup guards and related service. Eliminating lockup would allow the court to consolidate its in-court holding cells to help save costs.
But news of the proposal to close the Hollywood lockup has not been taken well by Hollywood community leaders or by Los Angeles city officials. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, who launched a well-received community prosecutor program that puts lawyers in Hollywood and other areas to crack down on nuisance crimes like prostitution, is scheduled to appear at a courthouse news conference this morning to criticize the plan.
He is expected to be joined by City Council members Eric Garcetti and Tom LaBonge, both of whom represent Hollywood.
Hollywood Chamber of Commerce spokesman Todd Lindgren said there were a lot of advantages to having suspected prostitutes and other defendants requiring lockup to appear in a courthouse close to where they were arrested.
Currently, Los Angeles police officers assigned to Hollywood and Business Improvement District security officers can take a short break from their patrol duties to appear on a subpoena at the Hollywood Courthouse, rather than take off the whole day to go downtown to testify, he said.
“Also, judges in Hollywood are familiar with repeat offenders, and they known how to deal with their cases,” Lindgren said. “There are a lot of benefits to a community courthouse that would disappear.”
In a news release yesterday, the chamber referred to the courthouse as a “cornerstone in the revitalization of a new Hollywood,” which opened after a campaign by civic leaders calling on legislators to do something about prostitution and related crimes.
The statement also suggested that the courthouse could become civil only.
MacLaughlin said that while there is discussion about closing the lockup, there is no current plan to remove criminal matters from the courthouse.
“It is solely about whether to continue having custodies there,” he said.
Shutdown of the three lockups aside, MacLaughlin said that the Executive Committee’s scheduled vote for tomorrow was on broad policy matters—whether to eliminate 26 judicial positions and 29 courtrooms, and lay off another 150 court employees.
Specific courtroom cuts would be recommended by a subcommittee in the near future, if the proposal is approved tomorrow, he said.
While the Executive Committee could act tomorrow to shut down the lockups, MacLaughlin added, he said there would be a further process—taking into account more than just the budget ramifications—before the lockups finally close.
The court already has laid off 160 employees in an effort to deal with the state budget crisis and the correspondingly lower-than-expected allocation for courts.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company