Sacramento Superior Court leaders have long been eager to build a new courthouse to replace a facility they call outdated, overcrowded and unsafe. aseng@sacbee.com Andrew Seng
Sacramento Superior Court leaders have long been eager to build a new courthouse to replace a facility they call outdated, overcrowded and unsafe. aseng@sacbee.com Andrew Seng

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Mayor-elect Steinberg tours this place, calls it ‘stark’

By Darrell Smith

dvsmith@sacbee.com

November 01, 2016 05:32 PM

Sacramento Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg squeezed into a fourth-floor corridor of Sacramento County’s downtown courthouse with a gaggle of judges, bailiffs and court staff Tuesday morning before grabbing a seat atop a ventilation unit. A few feet away stood another group of county jail inmates headed to their court hearings.

“I feel the confinement here...to do this sort of justice every day,” Steinberg said finally.

Sacramento Superior Court officials took their case for a new courthouse to the city’s mayor-elect and other local officials Tuesday and continued to push for funding for a courthouse to replace a building long viewed as overcrowded, obsolete and unsafe.

“It’s fundamentally unsafe,” said Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly.

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Sacramento Superior Court leaders for years have sought to move out of downtown’s 50-year-old Gordon Schaber Courthouse, citing as it did recently in an August memo to the Judicial Council of California, its decades-long battle with“major security, life safety, functional and overcrowding issues.”

Preliminary plans continue for a $493 million courthouse near downtown Sacramento’s railyards, a 538,000-square-foot, 53-courtroom courthouse planned at H Street between 5th and 6th streets.

The bad news is that we’re one of the worst (facilities) in the state of California. The good news is that we rank high (in priority).

Sacramento assemblyman Kevin McCarty

The Judicial Council back in August, citing deep fiscal woes, said local courts such as Sacramento can complete the project work in front of them, but no more until the council finds new funding.

The need for a new courthouse is not anything close to a luxury – it’s a necessity.

Sacramento Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg

But in mayor-in-waiting and former Senate pro tem Steinberg and Sacramento assemblyman Kevin McCarty, Sacramento City Council member Steve Hansen, Sacramento Superior Court leaders are hoping for influential allies in their quest for a new courthouse.

At the courthouse and a later interview, Steinberg said he plans to press for a new court building to the governor’s office and state legislators, calling conditions at the Schaber Courthouse “stark.”

“The need for a new courthouse is not anything close to a luxury – it’s a necessity,” Steinberg said. “To see the proximity between defendants, inmates, judges, jurors, the public – we’re really going to press our case. It’s a challenge, but it’s a worthy challenge.”

The elected officials toured cramped and aging holding cells and listened as judges laid out concerns from jurors’ accommodations to a lack of fire sprinklers above the building’s second floor.

“This is an urgent situation,” said Hansen, who represents downtown Sacramento neighborhoods.

“The bad news is that we’re one of the worst (facilities) in the state of California. The good news is that we rank high (in priority),” McCarty said outside the courthouse. “We already have the land, a design, and now, we’re in the queue for construction. I think we have a good path. We want to make sure it’s a priority.”

Yolo Superior Court bids farewell to historic courthouse. McClatchydvsmith@sacbee.com

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith