Traffic, civil and criminal cases arising in the Florence area since Jan. 25 have been transferred to courts in downtown Los Angeles, and county officials said the move "is going very smoothly."
Michael Means, a Los Angeles Judicial District spokeswoman, said an area composed of several square blocks in the Southeast Municipal Court District was transferred to the Los Angeles district to relieve crowding in the South Gate and Huntington Park courthouses.
The transfer is expected to have a minimal effect on the huge Los Angeles Judicial District, where additional staff members have been added to handle the new cases, she said.
Since Jan. 25, Means said, about 60 traffic and criminal misdemeanor cases from Florence and other nearby unincorporated county areas have been handled at the Traffic Courts Building downtown. Felony cases are being handled at the Criminal Courts Building and civil and small-claims cases are being heard at the County Courthouse, she said.
Crowding May Continue
However, crowding in the local courts is not expected to diminish for several months because of a backlog of cases that occurred before the transfer, county officials said.
Means said the transfer is expected to add about 10,000 new traffic and misdemeanor cases each year to those already handled at the Traffic Courts Building, where 20,000 to 50,000 cases are heard every month.
The county also has estimated that 550 felony cases from the Florence area will be handled downtown each year as a result of the transfer.
"This is really just a drop in the bucket for us, and things are going very smoothly so far," she said.
The only problem, Means said, is that traffic patrol officers are forgetting to tell cited motorists that they must go to court in Los Angeles instead of locally. That problem has surfaced in only a few instances, she said.
The Florence area and unincorporated neighborhoods along Firestone Boulevard were removed from the Southeast Municipal Court District by the county after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered the county to relieve crowding in the local courthouses.
Overcrowding, especially at the South Gate courthouse, has been a subject of controversy for several years.
Last year, South Gate Municipal Judge John R. Hopson sued Sheriff Sherman Block, demanding that the county build a new courthouse in South Gate.
Instead, a Superior Court judge ruled that Block had to find a way to relieve the crowding, but did not specify how it should be done.
Block and the county Board of Supervisors then decided to redraw the judicial boundaries.