Somehow, in fifteen plus years of practice, I’d never, ever made an appearance at the Beverly Hills courthouse. That changed earlier this week.
I was expecting something posh. Marble or granite on the walls. Sculpture or statuary. Interesting architecture. Parallel rows of palm trees on the lawn leading up to the front doors. Instead, I got utilitarian-at-best. The Beverly Hills courthouse was an ordinary-looking concrete cube of an office building, ugly and squat, with a two-foot boulevard strip of grass opposite the sidewalk to serve as “landscaping.” There was one entrance on the side, it shared space with other county offices, and all the court activities were on upper floors which could only be accessed with a single elevator (the other one was reserved for court staff). The elevators were slo-o-o-o-ow. The decor was the same old dark stained wood paneling that graced courtroom walls in the 1960’s, and the courtroom itself looked like it was designed in that era and faded photographs of various judges, the President, and the Governor. It was cramped and individual courtrooms were difficult to locate. There seemed to be no stairs accessible to the public. The seats in the gallery were the same kind of tan-painted steel swivel seats that graced my elementary school’s auditorium in the early 1980’s.
Which is all fine, I suppose; it all works and is functional to get the court’s business done. But it’s hardly glamorous, not what you’d expect in a place like Beverly Hills. It was clean enough, I guess; the wood stain had been touched up in the recent past, the glass had not been allowed to accumulate much dirt, and the floors had been recently swept and polished appropriately. And I’m glad, in the abstract, that the courts aren’t spending a bunch of money on statuary and potted plants for what is, after all, a functional if unbeautiful courthouse. But it’s still surprising that our courthouse here in the Antelope Valley is much nicer than the one in Beverly Hills. A little disappointing.
The staffing and administration failed to impress, either. Although it took me two hours to get there from my home because it’s such a pain in the ass to drive into Beverly Hills, so I was tired, stressed, and really had to pee by the time I got there. Even so, I arrived at the courthouse on time, but it was still another half hour until the minimally-staffed clerk’s office could handle in-processing my ex parte application and still another twenty minutes after that of listening to the bailiff go through the small claims spiel and checking in with the clerk before I could locate a men’s room. No special service there.
After all that, I was told to come back next week, because the judge who was assigned the case wasn’t in and the other judge didn’t want to step in and had a full plate of small claims cases to hear that morning, so the research attorney just rescheduled it and told me to come back next week. People wonder why their attorney’s fee bills are so high for “routine” court appearances.
I hope I can phone in the appearance next week, but something tells me that they just aren’t going to be wired that well in Beverly Hills.