Locals Out, Corporate In With Courthouse ‘Partnerships’

Anyone worried that the trend toward “public-private” courthouses will have unknown impacts on the justice community was not reassured by the story of Rick Lopez, an iconic coffee-and-sandwiches vendor at the Long Beach courthouse who was left behind by such a partnership. 
The Times explains what happened to Lopez, who entered courthouse vending decades ago on a program to benefit the blind, like this: “… when all the judges, bailiffs and clerks moved down the street to a gleaming new courthouse this fall, Lopez didn’t make the trip. State officials told Lopez there was nothing they could do to keep him in Long Beach, but they could transfer him to another location. The new courthouse was built by a public-private partnership and developers were given the right to lease out the food stalls as they pleased.” Taking his place, “… would be a food court with chains such as Subway and Coffee Bean.”
The other location turned out to be at the Downey courthouse, a two-hour train and bus ride from his home. so he wakes up at 3 a.m., dedicating an hour to prayer before heading out the door, according to the Times story. They have found another vending opportunity at the Compton courthouse, but Lopez has dipped into his savings to make the shift. The Times story is one of a remarkable individual overcoming long odds, not about public-private displacement. It still humanizes the recent moves in our justice system. Read the Times story here.