The New United States Federal Courthouse In San Diego
I am the 2012 San Diego Defense Attorney Grinch. Yes, I am going to say the unspeakable words: “I don't like the new United States Courthouse.”
First, lets take a look a the old United States Courthouse . It has plenty of room for IRS agents, ICE, the swarming hordes of Assistant United States Attorneys and even more than a dozen courtrooms. Maybe I just kind of felt at home in the building because I have been a San Diego criminal defense attorney for more than twenty five years and go there almost every day. It has a cozy quality about it , and it even has a place to sit and grab a fast snack.
It almost feels like a happy place until you realize that the judges here frequently send first offenders to jail from here without parole for routine drug importation cases from ten to twenty years…….yes: TEN TO TWENTY YEARS!!!!! Some of these defendants commit suicide, even in court, after the verdict to avoid being locked up for so long.
Now, lets take a look at this building. It is the El Centro Federal Courthouse. This is my favorite. Iit has an artificial stream of water running in the middle of the 120 degree desert heat. The folks are friendly here. And the judge, Peter Lewis, is a kind gentleman who always takes a few extra minutes to wish the defendants the best, especially around the Holidays.
The only problem with this courthouse is that it doesn't have a United States District Court Judge. Peter Lewis is only a magistrate judge,who by law has limited powers, only hearing cases before indictment, bail hearings and misdemeanors. Mr. Obama, I vote that you make Magistrate Lewis a District Court Judge so that we don't waste thousand of tax-payer dollars sending all of the felonies in this courthouse to San Diego. Judge Lewis has been out here long enough in the desert heat, and he is a good judge. Better yet, this court is big enough to have a second judge.
Even though we are in the worst economic times since 1929 and about to “fall off a cliff”, whatever that means, Congress doesn't seem to have any shortage of money to build beautiful new courthouses. In fact, our federal government seems obsessed about doing so.
Just look at this new beauty. This is the courthouse that I don't like. How could I be so brazen not to like this new building? The United States District Court judges in San Diego are so proud of it. It takes up 2.5 acres in downtown San Diego. It is supposed to be 468,000 square feet. With a building so big, I bet the judges' offices or “chambers” are also very large, though I haven't been invited back there yet. It usually isn't good news for a defense attorney when he is “invited into chambers.”
I don't like this courthouse because it cost over $368 million dollars to build. Yes, it is true that the United States federal court in San Diego has become crowded, but all of that could be avoided by the United States Attorney not prosecuting every routine case in which a deported Mexican citizen with even the most minor criminal record be federally prosecuted. When I was a prosecutor, we called this “screening.” I know because I used to be one of the screeners.
There is another very pretty and expensive building in San Diego. Many tourists pass it and wonder why such a beautiful and modern condominium has so few windows. Lets check it out:
designed by a famous architect who likes cement, is The Metropolitan Correctional Center. Conveniently, it is only a few hundred yards from the old and new San Diego Courthouses and there are tunnels connecting them. I am not sure if that is because the U.S. Marshalls don't like to get wet on San Diego's few rainy days, or because of security concerns, or because we don't want the tourists to know that Downtown San Diego isn't always a nice place—probably all three reasons I suppose.
Notice the crane in the background. This picture was taken when they were building the new federal courthouse. I guess the building is so tall because it is one of the many jails where America houses its TWO MILLION incarcerated people.
Here is a building that I do like and I do worry about:
Believe it or not, this is a San Diego school. Many of them are closed in the summers because there is not enough money. Many of the teachers are not paid enough to even make a living without taking a second job.
I wonderful what the San Diego students and teachers would feel like if their school was the new United States Courthouse. Or better yet, I wonder what our schools would be like if that $368 million had been spent on the students and teachers instead of the courts, the judges, and corrections. I suspect that many of these students in a few years will unfortunately be frequent visitors to the new courthouse.
The last building I tried to “google” was “San Diego free mental health clinics.” I couldn't even come up with one image! But I do see many mentally ill people sleeping on the streets that would dream to be able to sleep in a place like the U.S. courthouse, but not as a prisoner.
Upon further research I did find a mental health facility in San Diego. Want to see it?
Maybe you guessed it. It is a federal detention center, a nice name for a federal jail. Read the marvelous words that were written about it by the editor on the webpage where I found it.
About Our Facility
We provide medical and mental health services to a population of approximately 1,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement and US Marshal Service detainees. The patient population consists mainly of healthy adult males with a small percentage (15-20%) of females. Approximately half of our patients are Hispanic; the remaining population originates from countries all over the world including Africa, the Middle and Far East, Europe, and countries of the Pacific Rim.
The medical referral center opened its doors on June 1, 2002, and we've been growing ever since. Noted areas of medical care include our 32 bed Mental Health Unit and six medical isolation rooms which comprise our Short Stay Unit and Tuberculosis Infirmary.
Absent the bars and given the multi-cultural orietation, it almost sounds like a vacation resort.