New Los Angeles courthouse: Necessary or a waste of taxpayer money?

A woman stands in the doorway of a court

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

A woman stands in the doorway of a courtroom closed due to budget cuts and layoffs, at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles March 16, 2009.

A congressional hearing will allow the public to sound off on replacing a downtown Los Angeles courthouse. The move has been criticized by Congressman Jeff Denham from Fresno, who said it’s a waste of taxpayer money.

Denham calls the hearing in a press release the “[General Services Administration]'s Plan to Spend $400 Million to Create Vacant Space.”

The freshman Republican — who sits on the House Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management — has been calling attention to vacant federal properties across the country.

L.A. has two federal courthouses. The new building would replace the Spring Street Courthouse, built in 1938.

Denham said L.A. has fewer judges now than it did a decade ago and court officials have overestimated future growth. He said he favors doubling up on courthouse space in the newer Roybal Courthouse in Little Tokyo and selling the downtown lot designated for the new building.

A private company could develop it very quickly, he said, and the federal government should utilize space better.

Federal court officials say courtrooms at the Roybal are used for hearings, pleas, sentencings and trials.

There's also a dispute about what to do with the 1938 courthouse if a new one is built. In June, the GSA proposed exchanging the old courthouse on Spring Street for a new federal office building. Denham's committee is skeptical of that proposal because of the historic nature of the old courthouse.

The hearing is 10 a.m. Friday in Courtroom 890 at the Roybal Courthouse on Temple in Little Tokyo. It's open to the public.

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