Municipal Court officials Wednesday announced a plan to move several misdemeanor and civil courtrooms in the San Fernando Valley to different locations in mid-June.
Under the plan, three misdemeanor courts housed in the old San Fernando Courthouse in the 900 block of 1st Street will be transferred to a building now under construction in the 6200 block of Sylmar Avenue in Van Nuys.
Four civil courts housed in a former supermarket in the 5700 block of White Oak Avenue in Encino will move to the old San Fernando Courthouse. The San Fernando Public Library, which occupies a corner of the old courthouse, will become a traffic court.
David E. Dolan, a city attorney in the San Fernando Courthouse, objected to the plans. He complained that "the residents of the northeast Valley, a high-crime area, will once again be denied a convenient forum in which to seek redress and the advantage of having misdemeanor criminal matters handled in a court that understands the area's unique problems."
However, Los Angeles Municipal Court Presiding Judge George W. Trammell said the plan "will make the best utilization of courtrooms in the Valley."
'Gain More This Way'
"To some extent, it will present an inconvenience to some people who would have gone to San Fernando for their misdemeanors, but in weighing the options, we gain more this way than under any other system," he said.
Trammell said the plan was chosen for three reasons.
The first priority was to get the four civil courtrooms out of the Encino branch because of the building's structural problems, Trammell said. The former supermarket, leased to Los Angeles County by the U.S. Postal Service, is braced by 67 wooden posts scattered inside because nearby buildings that helped support it were razed 1 1/2 years ago.
The makeshift supports cause a number of problems, he said, including the need to assign a small judge to one office, which can only be entered by squeezing past a post.
The second reason for the transfer is that the new 10-story Municipal Court building in Van Nuys will more securely hold inmate defendants than the old San Fernando Courthouse, which was built in 1953 and has substandard lockups, he said.
The third reason is to take advantage of the new building in Van Nuys, Trammell said. Officials of the Superior Court, a separate system that also has a space problem, "have been salivating" over its 23 courtrooms, Trammell said, but "it is our intent to occupy it fully."
After the transfer, four Municipal Courts will be left in the new San Fernando Courthouse, built in 1983 at 900 3rd St. Two of them will be for felony preliminary hearings and two will be misdemeanor trial courts. All four will be put on a direct calendar system instead of having cases assigned to them by an arraignment court, Trammell said.
Martin Vranicar Jr., supervising deputy for the city attorney's office in the Valley, said he will transfer at least one of the eight attorneys in the San Fernando office to Van Nuys to help with the anticipated increase there.
Bitner Winckler, head of the San Fernando public defender's office, said he will reassign some of the seven attorneys now handling misdemeanors in San Fernando.