The Courthouses In Los Angeles
The courthouses in LA are interesting because LA is a huge metropolis and has one of the biggest District Attorneys and judiciary branches in the country. The courthouses make a lot of money and account for most of the budge in Sacramento. In an interesting move not too long ago, within the last five years, the powers to be decided to close a number of the courthouses in Los Angeles County, so it went from approximately forty courthouses down to approximately twenty-five courthouses. They closed such courthouses as Beverly Hills, Malibu, Hollywood and a number of other courthouses, really in the name of trying to save money, because even though the courthouses make a lot of money for Los Angeles County, they also cost a lot of money to keep open.
So, if you’ve got a case in a courthouse and you want to know about history of the courthouse and what you are up against, you’re on the right track because a lot of these courthouses have their own little way of dealing with crime depending on what crime it is and who the prosecutor is and who the judge is and what their tendencies are. That’s one of the questions I would be asking if I had a criminal case in Los Angeles and I was in a specific courthouse in a specific courtroom, I would want to know the tendencies of the judge and the tendencies of the prosecutor in that particular courthouse.
A lot of the courthouses are so overcrowded now because of this consolidation. For example, LAX courthouse is handling the load of about three or four courthouses. This actually in my opinion works out good for the defense because they are so crowded, they have to resolve their cases. If everybody went to trial they would be over-run and not be able to function. So, I find that we do get a lot of good resolutions on the LAX courthouse, but you have to really fight in order to get those resolutions.
A lot of the courthouses in LA are new – LAX, Lancaster, Long Beach has a new courthouse, Antelope Valley has new courthouse – and then there’s also some old ones likes Van Nuys, San Fernando, Pasadena – so a lot of the elevators don’t work right and you really have to know your way around in order to maneuver in and out of the courthouses in Los Angeles County.
I do think it’s crucial that you realize the courthouses are all carved up jurisdictionally. So, if you commit a crime in the San Fernando Valley for example, you’re going to end up in the Van Nuys courthouse unless it’s in the north end of the San Fernando Valley, in which case you’ll end up in the San Fernando courthouse. So, knowing which court your case is in and what the tendencies are in that courthouse are a key step towards getting your matter resolved.
So, when you meet with your attorney, talk about the courthouse. Talk about the players in the courthouse and what your best strategy should be, because there’s all sorts of strategies. Some of the head prosecutors in some of the courthouses you definitely want to avoid because they are very difficult to deal with. Some of the judges in some of the courthouses are also more difficult to deal with and more harsh on crime than other courthouses in Los Angeles county. So, knowing the ropes and knowing the players is crucial. I’ve been doing this for twenty-five years and these are some of the first questions I ask my clients when they call me or come into my office – which court is your case in? Who’s the judge on the case? Do you know the name of the prosecutor on your case? Because, depending on where you are and who the people are in charge of your case, there are certain strategies that can be employed so you can get the best resolution.
Also, if you have to do a jury trial in a courthouse, you’re going to want to know what court it’s in because the jury pool in each of the courthouses is different. Some are more conservative. Some are more liberal. I would say the downtown jury pool is a very liberal jury pool – in my opinion, one of the best jury pools for a criminal defendant. Whereas, some of the more conservative courts like San Fernando, Van Nuys, Pomona, West Covina, these courts have tougher jurors – very tough on crime – and so, if you have a case in that courthouse, you’re going to want to think twice before you go to trial and obviously make sure you have a case that you can win.
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