Garberville Courthouse Restoration | Lost Coast Outpost | Humboldt County

Maureen Konieczny So Humbo asks Steven Steward, Ben McLaughlin

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Garberville Courthouse Restoration

Since we lost our Court due to County neglect and deferred maintenance, the public needs our Court brought back to serve the community. What will you do to restore full Court Services to Southern Humboldt?

— Maureen Konieczny So Humbo


Ben McLaughlin

Agree with you wholeheartedly that court services should extend to Humboldt’s rural residents.  Period.  

Unfortunately, I don’t think the courts have any mechanism to re-open the Garberville courthouse, which I believe is a county building, absent funding from the county.   If you think that court access for rural residents is as important as I do, contact your elected Supervisor and voice your concern.  With the COIVD stimulus, my bet is the County probably has the money on-hand to fix-up the Garberville court.

This question re rural access actually came up recently, albeit in a different context.  Someone asked me a question about Zoom and whether or not I would like to keep it in place.  My answer to that is definitively yes!

Zoom increases the ability of the public to observe the court process, which is great.  Courtrooms are open to the public and the public should be accommodated to the greatest degree possible.  A public Zoom option will also hold the judges accountable, by permitting the public to see their elected judges in action.  

The other component to my answer involves court access both for rural and indigent litigants.  Not everyone can afford to fill a car with gas—especially these days—to travel from Alderpoint, Garberville, Orleans, etc. to Eureka.  Maybe a ride falls through.  Maybe no money for bus fare.  Maybe it’s unfair to ask rural residents to spend several hours of drive time to appear for a routine court appearance.   

Most folks, regardless of means, have cell phones these days.  While that’s not a scientific fact, I’d say that a huge majority of my Public Defender clients have phones and can appear via Zoom.

Until rural residents can access the courts in the same convenient way their city-slicker peers can, I think Zoom is a must.  What is the option?  Do you put someone in jail because he or she cannot afford gas, find a ride, etc.?  Do you make someone drive 3-4 hours for a pre-trial conference?  

The answer to those questions is no.  Make court equally accessible to all county residents.  

Steven Steward

I absolutely agree with you 100% that we need to reopen our Garberville Court and others. If elected, I will push for reopening courts throughout our County, including courts in Garberville and Hoopa so that justice is available to everyone and not just those that have the time, means and ability to travel to Eureka.   Getting to the Courthouse in Eureka is many times an unworkable financial burden and time commitment, especially for folks living in Southern Humboldt and tribal communities. Most working people and caretakers cannot dedicate an entire day to attend a short hearing, get a protective order or handle a simple traffic ticket in a distant courthouse.  

Not long ago we had Justice Courts that provided court services in Fortuna, Arcata, Hoopa and Garberville. Justice should come to where people are and not the other way around. As a judge I will do everything I can to reopen courts, at least in Hoopa and Garberville, to provide all Humboldt County residents with the court services that equal access to justice requires.

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