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County officials dedicate renovated Hall of Justice

After two decades of sitting empty, the renovated Hall of Justice was dedicated Wednesday, restoring a downtown landmark to its former role as a law enforcement center.

Built in 1925, the Beaux Arts-style building is across Spring Street from the federal courthouse and kitty-corner from City Hall. Beginning early next year, it will house about 1,500 employees from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the district attorney's office.

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"You feel like you're walking into a place where important decisions are made that affect the lives of others," Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said at the dedication ceremony, which drew hundreds of current and retired county officials.

The Hall of Justice was red-tagged due to damage from the 1994 Northridge earthquake and has not been occupied since. The $231-million seismic retrofit and renovation is being financed with the $10 million or more the county will save annually in leasing fees.

Lacey and several other speakers acknowledged former Sheriff Lee Baca, who was sitting in the front row, for his role in making sure the building was not mothballed, as some had advocated.

Though the Hall of Justice will no longer house jail inmates or courtrooms, a row of cells where Charles Manson reportedly stayed is preserved as part of a museum in the basement. Manson and Sirhan Sirhan were both tried in the building. The county coroner's office was headquartered there when it handled the autopsies of Marilyn Monroe and Robert F. Kennedy.

For more Los Angeles Sheriff's Department news, follow @cindychangLA. She can be reached at cindy.chang@latimes.com.

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