Monday, March 08, 2010

"Any accurate depiction of the criminal justice microcosm must include the vital role of the coffee shop."

That's Milton Hirsch on the absence of a coffee shop in the new federal courthouse. John Pacenti covers the issue here:

Three years after the Ferguson courthouse was dedicated, the chief judge is fed up with the General Services Administration and is demanding to know when the planned cafeteria will materialize. Sustenance is available. Two vending machines are the only options right now. The delay in what some say is a necessary amenity prompted U.S. District Chief Judge Federico Moreno to fire off a letter Feb. 19 to the landlord, acting regional GSA commissioner James S. Weller. “I have absolutely no confidence that the restaurant is in reality to open soon,” Moreno wrote. His account of his dealings with the agency on the cafeteria reads like a classic bureaucratic nightmare. Moreno first asked when the restaurant would be opening Sept. 5, 2008, and was advised an exhaust hood, electrical wiring and fire suppression equipment would be installed shortly thereafter. The GSA said the hood vendor was on site that month. But dates came and went. The agency has said work on the cafeteria would be completed by last June, last November and then this past January. The exhaust hood has been particularly troublesome. Moreno said he was told last April 14 that hood work still needed to be completed. Moreno and Weller met in his chambers last July 21, and the judge was told the next day the “work is progressing.” In September, the GSA advised the vent hood contract had just been awarded, and fabrication would take five weeks. An electrical contractor was “standing by.” The GSA advised Moreno in January that “the remaining electrical work came to halt when it was learned that certain electrical components were missing.” Now, Moreno has been informed a “soft opening” is tentatively set for this month. “GSA’s most recent response concerning a hopeful soft opening in March is the same sort of response we have been receiving to our inquiries for the past year and half — a list of excuses or reasons for delay,” the judge’s letter said.

And you can always count on Judge Palermo for a good quote:

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Palermo, whose courtroom is in another building, refers to the courthouse as the “Vegas building.” “I just think there is a lost of wasted space,” he said. U.S. District Judge Paul Huck, a Ferguson tenant, said the building is just going through some growing pains. “It’s going to be a signature building in downtown for years to come,” he said. Still, he said it’s a little roomy, and there has been some tweaking here and there, particularly on the sound system. “It has some nice features that are good for lawyers and jurors in the presentation of evidence. That is a major improvement,” Huck said.

The Chief isn't happy:

Moreno, though, has thrown down the gauntlet, saying he is embarrassed by the lack of a cafeteria at the courthouse due to the GSA’s failure to deliver. “Our government is at its best when we see our armed forces in action,” the chief judge wrote. “Unfortunately, it is perceived at its worst by the thousands of jurors, lawyers, staff, litigants, etc., when they see GSA’s promises on such a simple task end in delay after delay.”

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