Municipal Court Plans South County Annex

Times Staff Writer

South Orange County Municipal Court in Laguna Niguel, where the caseload has skyrocketed with the rapid population growth in the area, will open an annex in early October eight miles away.

The 20,000 square feet of office space on the second floor of a building at 23141 Moulton Parkway, near the intersection of Moulton and Lake Forest Drive, will handle traffic, civil and small-claims cases. No criminal cases will be handled at the annex, said Pamela Lee Iles, presiding south county municipal judge.

The annex, Iles said, is a stop-gap measure until a proposed 11-courtroom facility can be constructed next to the present one, which shares South County Civic Center space with a Sheriff’s Department office, fire station and library at Crown Valley and Alicia parkways.

Funding Delays


Louise Napoli, budget manager for the county’s chief administrative officer, said rent for the annex will be about $500,000 a year. The county apparently will pay that amount for several years because of delays in getting funding for the new building, she said. The cost of the new structure is estimated at $20 million.

Chief Deputy Clerk Joyce Zeigler said that about 50 people will be transferred to the annex. Soon after the move on Oct. 3, three commissioners will be named to adjudicate cases there.

Caseload statistics for the four courtrooms at the Civic Center demonstrate the need for the annex, court officials said.

Caseload Increase


Robert Strayer, head of the court services department, said the South Orange County Municipal Court processed 49,999 traffic cases in 1986. The figure jumped to 65,926 cases in 1987, and by June had already reached 37,976 for 1988.

Strayer said there were 15,514 filings in criminal cases in 1986 and 18,510 in 1987.

Civil cases, which are recorded by the fiscal year ending in June, numbered 4,542 in 1986-87 and 5,077 in 1987-88, he said. Small-claims cases showed a slight decrease from 2,650 to 2,572 in the same periods. The drop, Strayer said, was probably because of people waiting to file lawsuits after Jan. 1, 1989, when a new law will take effect allowing them to sue in small-claims court for a maximum of $2,000 rather than the present $1,500.