Sheriff Lee Baca accepting the award for the 2013 Sheriff of the Year from the National Sheriffs’ Association on June 23, 2013. Photo courtesy of LASD
Sheriff Lee Baca accepting the award for the 2013 Sheriff of the Year from the National Sheriffs’ Association on June 23, 2013. Photo courtesy of LASD

Almost four years in the making, downtown Los Angeles’ new $350 million federal courthouse was unveiled Thursday for the first time.

While the U.S. Marshals Service has begun operations at the mirror-and- glass building, judges will begin moving to the sleek structure at Broadway and First Street in the next few weeks.

The first trial of media interest expected to take place there will be that of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who faces charges of conspiring to obstruct a federal probe into misconduct by jail deputies on Dec. 6.

Unlike the venerable 1930s-era district courthouse, which can be entered from both Main and Spring streets, the new building has only one entrance.

The 633,000-square-foot facility will contain 24 courtrooms and 32 judges’ chambers. Due to its location, seismic design was also a critical consideration.

With 10 floors, a penthouse, and a basement, the building includes a massive multi-defendant room that can accommodate more than a dozen defendants and their lawyers.

The interior of the building consists entirely of white floors, sleek lines, marble accents and a flood of sunlight.     “I am happy and humbled to have helped lead the effort to build this magnificent courthouse,” U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard said at today’s ribbon-cutting.

“We knew building a new courthouse would be a multi-year project, but we had no idea of the many obstacles we would face and how many years the project would actually take.”

Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, spent years on the project, leading the fight to build it,

“We tried every legislative vehicle and parliamentary maneuver to overcome congressional opposition from both sides of the aisle, and we were often told to simply find alternative solutions to a new courthouse,” she said.

“The fact is alternatives were reviewed and studied, and the only practical solution to the serious challenges of safety, seismic, fire, and security hazards at the existing courthouse was to build a new one equipped to handle the modern day needs of our busy, growing court with its burgeoning caseload. So we fought on until we prevailed and finally received the go-ahead to start construction.”

In addition to speaking at the ceremony, Roybal-Allard took a tour of the new courthouse and made presentations to the General Services Administration and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The courthouse will be a home to both, as well as U.S. Marshals Service and Federal Public Defenders.

The old federal courthouse will be home to certain Superior Court civil trials, while the U.S. Attorney’s Office will remain in its current placement on the upper floors.

—City News Service

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