Judges in Division 97A hear their traffic cases in the back room of an old shoe store. A sign on the second floor says: "All Sales Final! No Refunds."
Next door on Santa Monica Boulevard, outside a former pharmacy, defendants wait on the sidewalk for their moment of justice. "DO NOT Knock," warns a crudely lettered cardboard sign. "If you are late you will not be seen today. NO EXCEPTIONS!!!!" The last two words are underlined in pink nail polish for greater effect.
Criminal misdemeanor cases are held in temporary trailers.
The decrepit annexes of the West Los Angeles Municipal Court are hardly a showplace of American jurisprudence.
"It's extremely crowded, ramshackle, tumble-down," said Presiding Judge Richard G. Berry.
But a change is on the horizon. When the West Los Angeles traffic and small claims courts open for business Tuesday, it will not be at their current shabby locations, but in a new office building at 3000 S. Robertson Blvd.
"These will be regular, nice courtrooms," said Robert Quist, Los Angeles County's deputy court administrator for branch operations. "We've been quite embarrassed about the facilities we've forced our customers to come into."
The move is also expected to relieve a chronic parking shortage at the West Los Angeles Civic Center, where only 30 public spaces are now available.
"When we open on Robertson, over 50% of the workload will leave the West L.A. courthouse, so we expect tremendous improvement," Quist said.
At the new location, people will be able to pay traffic tickets, sign up for traffic school, schedule hearings and argue traffic cases before a court commissioner or judge pro tem. Small-claims filings and hearings will also be heard.
With the growth of population on the Westside in recent years, there has been a steady increase in business at the West Los Angeles Municipal Courthouse, which handles about 120,000 traffic cases a year, along with 8,000 small-claims cases.
"From the time I first came here up to now, (the workload has) at least doubled," said Berry, who has been there for six years.
The courthouse, designed for four judges, houses 11 jurists in its main building and its temporary annexes.
The area covered by the court includes all of the city of Los Angeles west of La Cienega Boulevard, south of Mulholland Boulevard and north of Los Angeles International Airport.
The temporary trailers and old shops on Santa Monica Boulevard will make way for a parking lot, Quist said.
The trailers are slated for removal early next year, when 5,000 square feet of space will be leased for three courtrooms in a city-owned office building nearby.
By 1995, plans call for a new building to be built at the West Los Angeles site, plus another courthouse at 111th Street and Aviation Boulevard in the airport area, which will take on some of the workload now being handled at Purdue Avenue.
Debbie Crawford, an aide to County Supervisor Deane Dana, said the two new courthouses are expected to include eight to 10 courtrooms at the Purdue site and 12 to 18 courtrooms on Aviation Boulevard.
"When both are finished, there should be a net decrease of caseload at Purdue," said Jon M. Mayeda, chief presiding judge of the Los Angeles Municipal Courts.
While the cost of the new buildings has yet to be determined, Quist said that the Robertson site will cost just under $1 million for renovations and a five-year lease.
"None of this is tax money," he said. "It's all fees that people pay when they pay traffic and parking fines and bails."