Monday, May 16, 2016

Catalina Island Court: A Nightmare in Paradise

I was back in court on Catalina Island this past Friday, May 13.

If I've learned anything from my experiences in Catalina court, it's to expect the unexpected. It doesn't take much to gum up the works at the Catalina courthouse. Delays and complications are part of the routine.

The Catalina Courthouse, nestled in the beachside community of Avalon, is only open on alternating Fridays. The judge, prosecutor, clerk and court reporter commute by helicopter from San Pedro when the court is in session. The slightest inclement weather, however, often means that the helicopters can't fly. When that happens, cases may be postponed until the court's next available date. And since the courthouse is only open every other Friday, the next available court date might be weeks or even months away.

I usually take the Catalina Express ferry to and from the island, but it's not much more reliable than the helicopter. I've been stranded on the island for days because boats couldn't cross the channel due to high winds, rough seas, or debris in the Long Beach Harbor.

Even when the weather cooperates, the human element is an unpredictable variable. I've had cases continued (routinely) because the DA or the court staff forgot to bring a file or some important paperwork from the mainland. It's all part of the experience when you go to court in Avalon.

This week, the culprit was fog. The helicopter was grounded due to poor visibility, so the court staff was stranded in San Pedro. The courtroom in Catalina was full of attorneys and defendants with cases on calendar, but nothing happens in court until the judge shows up. So we waited. And waited. And waited a little longer for the marine layer to burn off.

The court staff appeared around 11:45. The good news is that we were able to hear our cases without unnecessary continuances. The bad news is that everybody in court missed the boat that was supposed to take us back to the mainland at 12:15.

The next boat on the day's schedule left at 3:30, so we had a few hours to kill. I made myself comfortable at the Marlin Club. There are worse places to be stranded for a day.

There are plenty of great activities to enjoy on Catalina Island, but going to court is not one of them. If you're arrested or cited on Catalina, hire a local attorney to make your court appearances so you don't have to. I can save you the time, hassle and expense of experiencing this adventure for yourself. I appear in Catalina regularly, and I even make appearances for other attorneys who are unavailable to make the trip.

If you have questions about appearing in court at the Catalina courthouse, call us for a free attorney consultation.  (714) 449-3335.  Ask for John.  Thanks for reading.

Catalina Island Lawyer