Capitol Alert

Gavin Newsom vetoes funding for El Dorado County courthouse in $215 billion state budget

Placerville’s downtown courthouse has anchored Main Street for over 100 years, but current plans call for building a new courthouse on the west end of town behind the El Dorado County jail. Some are enthused about the prospect of a modern courthouse; the old one is cramped and outdated. Others have filed a lawsuit, saying the move will harm Placerville’s historic downtown and lead to blight.
Placerville’s downtown courthouse has anchored Main Street for over 100 years, but current plans call for building a new courthouse on the west end of town behind the El Dorado County jail. Some are enthused about the prospect of a modern courthouse; the old one is cramped and outdated. Others have filed a lawsuit, saying the move will harm Placerville’s historic downtown and lead to blight. lsterling@sacbee.com

El Dorado County will have to wait a little longer for its new courthouse.

Gov. Gavin Newsom this week vetoed an item in the state budget that would have set aside $2.8 million to buy land for a new courthouse in the foothill county.

It was one of just three proposals in the $215 billion spending plan that he rejected. All together, Newsom is suspending or canceling $14.1 million worth of work the Legislature approved.

He wrote that the El Dorado courthouse is needed, but the project is not yet ready to receive the money for land acquisition.

“While I understand that there is a need to build this new courthouse, this expenditure authority is premature until the Judicial Council completes the statutorily-required statewide facilities needs assessment,” Newsom said.

The county’s 106-year old courthouse in Placerville is so small that that in-custody detainees are held in public corridors before trial due to the lack of holding space, according to the Judicial Council.

It does not have a jury assembly space, meaning that jurors have to meet in crowded public hallways. There are also no conference rooms for attorneys to privately talk with clients, victims and witnesses.

The El Dorado courthouse is one of the judicial branch’s highest priority infrastructure projects, being ranked as a “critical need” in its capital outlay plan.

The Recorder, a newspaper that covers California courts, reported earlier this month that the Judicial Council did not request funding for the El Dorado courthouse this year. It appeared in the budget at the request of Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, according to The Recorder.

The state budget signed by Newsom on Thursday includes around $470 million in new judicial branch funding. It will fund 25 trial court judges, new technology initiatives and pilot projects about pretrial decision making.

Last year’s state budget included funding for five county courthouse construction projects, including $460 million for one in Sacramento.

“The Judicial Council is now reviewing all proposed courthouse construction and renovation projects around the state as directed by the state legislature in last year’s budget. Going forward, it’s not clear where Placerville will fall on the new priority list until the council reassesses its capital construction program in November,” Blaine Corren, a spokesman for the Judicial Council of California, said.

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Elizabeth Shwe, from Princeton University, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee interested in politics and immigration. She grew up in New Jersey.
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