Workers Court Lawyer Over Asbestos Anxiety


When it comes to being plug-ugly and a discommodious place to work, it’s hard to beat the San Diego County Courthouse in downtown San Diego.

Cold in winter. Hot in summer. Crowded all the time. Subject to the vagaries of strange fumes, internal winds and stubborn plumbing.

Sometimes the elevators work, sometimes they don’t. The overall appearance brings new meaning to the word drab.


Still, the several hundred county employees who report each morn to 220 W. Broadway have learned to cope with the whimsy and annoyance of a public building that has reached decrepitude at age 27 (the main building opened in 1961, an annex in 1964).

But now, anxiety about asbestos possibly being in the air has employees newly worried. Not surprisingly, they’ve contacted an attorney.

It started Oct. 12, when a janitor discovered that a chunk of asbestos insulation had fallen into one of seven rooftop air conditioners since the filter had been changed three months earlier. County health inspectors took air, dust and “bulk” samples to see if the deadly stuff had permeated the building.

It apparently had not, according to Larry Marshall, chief of the health department’s occupational and radiological health division. No airborne contamination was found, he said.

On the other hand, an abnormally high asbestos reading was found in a dust sample taken in an area of the building not even served by the contaminated air-conditioning unit, leading to speculation that it had fallen down from a ceiling panel.

Nervous employees were briefed about the tests on Oct. 14.

“Our employees have been concerned for years about illnesses and strange fumes and problems with air quality,” said Bill Pierce, executive officer of the Superior Court. “The question about asbestos has added to their worries about working in such an aged building.”

Employees are particularly worried about asbestos being dislodged during the repair jobs, both current and planned, in the 600,000-square-foot building.

Prodded by the asbestos scare, the Superior Court has hired its own environmental consultant for further tests. On Monday, the health department will put the final touches on a precautionary plan for all employees, particularly maintenance workers, assigned to buildings with asbestos.

Today, a group of courthouse employees has an appointment with attorney Mike Duckor, whose firm, Duckor & Spradling, specializes in civil litigation. Is there a lawsuit in the offing?

“If people want to come to us to explore their rights,” Duckor said, “we’ll be glad to advise them.”

For Temporary Dudes

The county Planning and Environmental Review Board is considering an application by a Valley Center contractor to build what planners call a “transient habitation resort.”

That’s a dude ranch.


Most of the big battles to de-sex journalism have seemingly been fought.

Courtesy titles (Mr., Miss, Mrs.) are gone. Ditto divorcee, co-ed, fireman and policeman. Mankind is even giving ground (in some quarters) to humankind.

Still, the UC San Diego Guardian, a student newspaper at the La Jolla campus, recently announced a “small and admittedly awkward change.” Henceforth in its news columns, freshman will be replaced by freshperson.

“If you have any alternatives to freshperson , anything that sounds better without calling women men , write us a letter and let us know,” said a Guardian editorial.

The first letter is now in--from a male student calling for a return to freshman. He finds freshperson both jarring to the ear and a “preposterous philological construction.”

Probably just some wiseperson.