Guest Column: Courthouse closings will prove costly savings


The unprecedented massive closure of courthouses by the State will result in loss of jobs, inconvenience to litigants, denial of justice, little or no savings to local taxpayers, and in courthouses handling criminal cases, will render the cities they serve less safe.

An extreme example is the imminent (June) closure of the Malibu Courthouse. As a direct result of the closure, all criminal cases will be farmed out to either the Van Nuys or Airport (LAX) Courthouse. This means that the Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s Department (in Lost Hills), contracted to patrol the five cities (not just Malibu) covered by the massive Malibu Judicial District, will be traveling to distant courthouses to file and litigate cases. While deputies and detectives are away, they are unavailable for emergencies or to patrol the streets. In addition, the overtime and transportation costs to Los Angeles County taxpayers exceed the savings to the state by the closure.

You should be asking yourself, if the saving to the State by closing the Malibu Courthouse will be eaten up by the cost to Los Angeles County and, as a direct result, the citizens of the five affected cities will be less safe, why is the State doing it? I’ve been asking the same question for a year without a reasonable explanation. Next question: Why haven’t representatives from the state, county and cities affected by the closures sat down and decided what court closures make sense economically and are in the best interest of the people they serve? David S. Wesley’s (presiding judge of the LA County Superior Court) glib comment to the Los Angeles Times that there are no other options to the court closures, inferring the State made efforts to explore other options, is simply untr ue.

You may be thinking that, like the federal sequester, the State can undo the damage later by reopening the courthouses. Not so. Once a courthouse is closed, reopening it requires bringing it up to current building standards, which is very costly. As far as Malibu goes, if the State is really interested in saving money and protecting citizens, they would sit down with representatives of the county sheriff ’s department and the five affected cities, and come up with a solution. We all lose when the State acts arbitrarily. Richard Herzog has been a criminal defense attorney for 30 years.