California's judicial history has taken a long time to shape. At the time California was a province of Mexico, the Los Angeles pueblo was governed by the "Alcalde" judicial system. California became a U.S. state in 1849. In 1851 the California legislators enacted the Judiciary Act, which legislation divided California into "districts." One such district encompassed the counties of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and San Diego. As California's population grew (partially due to the influx created by the California Gold Rush), the state government and judicial system proved inadequate.
A Constitutional Convention was called in 1877 which led to the adoption of a new state Constitution in 1879. The new Constitution revamped California's judicial system, by creating a Supreme Court, District Courts of Appeal and Superior Courts. A Superior Court was established for each state County, and hence, the L.A. Superior Court was born in 1879. In 1880, the County of Los Angeles had a population of 33,381 people; that year, 633 actions were filed in the L.A. Superior Court.
Initially, the Los Angeles Superior Court was housed in a humble adobe structure on Main Street, but due to space shortage many proceedings were held in nearby office buildings, hotel rooms and private residences in Downtown Los Angeles. The "Clock Tower Courthouse", was the first permanent courthouse, which came into use in 1861.
In 1887, the Los Angeles Superior Court started construction of the "Red Sandstone Courthouse" which building was completed in 1891 at a total cost of $518,810. The Red Sandstone Courthouse (sometime referred to as the Los Angeles County Courthouse no. 3) is depicted in the old color postcard shown on this page. Due to the earthquake structural damage this building suffered, it was condemned in 1933. The Red Sandstone Courthouse was demolished in 1936, and currently the Criminal Courts building occupies that site.
Los Angeles Superior Court has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Today, the L.A. Superior Court operates 50 courthouses, which contain nearly 600 courtrooms. It has some 5,400 employees, and operates at a budget of $850 Million annually. The technolgically advanced facilities allow online access to case summaries and images of filed documents, and attorneys can appear in many hearings telephonically through CourtCall.
Today, the County of Los Angeles holds a population of 9.8 million, which is nearly one-fourth the total population of the State of California. The City of Los Angeles with a population of 3.8 million is the most populous city in the State of California, and the most populous city in the United States.
The materials for this blog were gathered from various sources including the Los Angeles Superior Court, Loyola Marymount University Library, Pacific Coast Architecture Database, United States Census Bureau, Wikipedia, and the book Lawyers of Los Angeles (Los Angeles Bar Association, 1959). For additional information run a search on Google.
Robin Mashal is a Los Angeles business attorney, and a partner at the law firm of Hong & Mashal LLP. Mr. Mashal has been admitted to the State Bar of California and the Bar of the United States Supreme Court. He can be reached by phone at (310) 286-2000.