Tuesday, December 30, 2008

House of Injustice

Humboldt County Courthouse, Eureka, California

Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka has got to be the most depressing, just plain awful place I've ever been. Today I had to file some papers with the Court Clerk, which is a basement office right off I Street.

But for some reason I thought I needed the County Clerk's Office, which is deep inside the maze on the fifth floor. I walked in the front entrance on Fifth Street, behind a long line of people, mostly women, whose clothing and behavior marked them as visitors to jail prisoners upstairs.

It was like entering an airport. All your stuff goes into bins onto a conveyor belt through an X-ray machine. You walk through a metal detector and have an encounter with a friendly police officer. People had to take off their belts, show their socks, etc.

I thought "Oh Hell!" when I saw all this, wondering what sort of weapons were in my purse today. There are always several knives, tear gas, etc. They confiscated my tear gas, and I couldn't get it back. It was a misdemeanor just to bring it in, the friendly officer told me.

One elevator was out of commission because someone had vomited in it. So I got onto a crowded elevator with a bunch of smoke-scented, fidgety people and rode to the fourth floor, stopping at every floor to let people off: the jail visitors, the people going to court appearances, the seedy looking lawyer in the bad suit.

Fourth floor, D.A.'s office, and only I got off. I had to change elevators to get to the fifth floor. My claustrophobia was rising in my chest. I would literally die if I had to work in that building. Fifth floor, three left turns, a literal maze of hallways.

But the county clerk's office is like another universe. There was carpet on the floor, a little feng shui to the layout, people who actually smiled, and walls of windows with glorious ocean views. Unfortunately it was the wrong office.

So I had to turn right around and do it all in reverse. Goodbye to my nice canister of tear gas, back to the court clerk's office, stand in a long line beside all the people paying traffic tickets, get abused by the low-level bureaucrats behind the window and pay $300 of my meager net worth just to get my papers stamped and entered into their machine.

There is a whole culture at the Humboldt County courthouse; I'd like to call it a sub-culture, but I fear it is dominant. Even the criminals willingly play their parts as cogs in the giant, ugly machine.

Wasn't there a time when courthouses were beautiful buildings like monuments to Justice that proudly housed our courts?

Look what other cities have:
Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri

Pima County Courthouse, Tucson, Arizona

Garfield County Courthouse, Pomeroy, Washington

McClennan County Courthouse, Waco, Texas

Shasta County Courthouse, Redding, California

But in Eureka we have this:

The most butt-ugly, hideous monstrosity right in the center of town. Monument to corruption and injustice. Home of paranoia and despair. Even ghosts won't haunt it.


Kristen said...

Sounds like an utterly draining experience! I never thought about *anything* being worse than the airport, but you sure found a place! . . . . It sounds like you are in need of a good movie and some chocolate ;)

Stay Warm!
Kristen :)

pmn34 said...

Indie, even your poetic words could not paint a pleasant image of this place.

Anonymous said...

Indie, dang it...I need to go to your blog more often. I had forgotten how well you write.

Oh, by the way, the courthouse was designed by two different architects with differing opinions. For real. Yes, i agree, our courthouse is really butt ugly. Like the people who haunt it.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Sadly, it is also earthquake proof.

Indie said...

Pmn34, I've missed you! I thought I chased you away somehow...

Ekovox, two architects explains a lot. It is the most schizophrenic building I've ever seen.

Ernie, that IS unfortunate.

Did there used to be a pretty courthouse here ever? Something graceful and dignified? It's not like there's a shortage of gorgeous buildings in Eureka.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Yes Indie,
We had a most beautiful courthouse at one time. We also had cable cars and Chocolate shops. At one time we almost became civilized, then we decided that we were tired of running things, and we turned it all over to the bureaucrats to handle for us.

Now we have buildings that are built like someone was making sausage, with security guards that do more to take away our security than provide for it.

Humboldt Co. court House pre-1954 Earthquake

pmn34 said...

I read your writing all the time, I prefer a different means of communication with the literary Indie. Until then, I will just sit back and read about your eventful world.

Jack said...

You would think that after the county spent millions of dollars and seemingly decades working on that building, it would have a paved parking lot.

Instead, there's a mud pit! It's not even properly graveled. Amazing.

Indie said...

Definition of a bureaucrat, which I explained to my son today: someone who works within the rules of the system and forgets or doesn't care about humanity, i.e., that this is all really about humans surviving in the world.

Amazingly, there are still good people sprinkled in among the bureaucrats.

Ernie, you're right; that we allowed bureaucrats to take over exactly explains the corrupted heart of Eureka.

And there are some other things (pot economy and Maxxam aftermath) that have contributed to the automatic reaction of marginalization and dismissal of anyone who protests these abuses.

Result: endless unbridgeable polarization. SAD!!!

pmn34, you should just email me then! My address is on my blog.

Anonymous said...


County Courthouse San Luis Obispo


German Consulate General Los Angeles
(We can afford a whole story in this building, isn't that intruiging K?)

I think everybody who has to deal with government officials, no matter which country, can just get the creeps!

Indie said...

Ernie, that is a rally good link. So this place was quite different 50 years ago. At what point and why did it get turned over to the bureaucrats?

Indie said...

R, that link to the German consulate in LA...ew! What is up with architects designing these awful buildings? Why not make them beautiful? Why not make every building beautiful?

The SLO building is ok, I suppose, if a little plain. It has some graceful steps, at least.

I guess what matters is what goes on inside. Justice or not?

If I was going to write a ghost story, I think I'd have it take place in a courthouse.