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Orange County

High Court to Convene in Old O.C. Courthouse

July 16, 2001|DAVID REYES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Orange County's Old County Courthouse has hosted famous trials during its history. Now, preparations are underway for a historic visit by the state Supreme Court in October as part of the courthouse's 100th anniversary celebration.

"This is a real first," said Alan Slater, Superior Court chief executive officer. "They have honored other counties like San Diego, which recently held their centennial, but I'm not aware that the Supreme Court has ever sat in Orange County."

Slater said the visit, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 4, also will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Orange County Bar Assn., which is helping sponsor the event.

Rather than a cursory visit or reception, the state's highest court will hear oral arguments, something the court usually does at its Northern California chambers in San Francisco, Slater said.

The court also has a regular schedule to hear cases in Sacramento or Los Angeles, but rarely hears cases elsewhere.

Slater said the court is taking a day out of its Los Angeles calendar, and all six current jurists plan to attend.

The old courthouse is a fitting venue for a special visit. It is the oldest courthouse in Southern California, and was the tallest building in Orange County when it was completed in 1901.

The courthouse once held all the county's government offices. It was closed in 1979 because it didn't meet earthquake codes. It was renovated and reopened in 1987, and now houses historical commission offices, museum space and the wedding license office.

The courtroom has seating for about 60 people. But organizers are trying to have the historic session shown on closed-circuit television in the meeting room of the Board of Supervisors and Superior Court's Department 1. The court does not usually televise its sessions.

The county bar association is working with several law schools to invite law students to attend the session or sit in the board meeting room as an educational opportunity.

"We're really excited about it. It's going to be a great day for Orange County," Slater said.

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