I was reading the 2008 Los Angeles Superior Court Annual Report the other day - mainly because I have no life - and I came across a rather interesting concept: construction of courthouses by private developers.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Would a private developer do such a thing?
I'll answer that for you. The answer is no. At least not if a courthouse is all the developer is going to get.
But there it was on page 35 of the annual report in a passage about the old courthouse in Long Beach. "Consideration is being given to a major shift toward creation of a public-private partnership in which a commercial developer would construct the courthouse."
This consideration is apparently going on in someone's dreams.
Fortunately, I'm here to help the court. This public-private partnership actually could work if there was just a tad more private in the deal. A commercial developer might not be interested in a plain old courthouse, but what if it was a judicial multimedia and retail center?
Or a Theme Park of Justice!
Picture this: an entire downtown city block with an eight-story structure (and underground parking) housing restaurants, shops, theaters, an ice-skating rink, and, of course, state-of-the-art courtrooms equipped with arena seating and giant screens.
The opportunities for cross-promotion would be endless. Imagine announcing a double feature of, say, the Phil Spector trial and No Country for Old Men.
This will call for a little flexibility on the part of judges, but if they're getting a new courthouse out of this, it ought to be worth it. They're going to have to allow popcorn in the courtrooms and maybe a few billboards.
I know that's going to annoy a few of the more traditional judicial types, but they really should consider the advantages. There will be good food in the building during breaks, not to mention shopping.
And a fitness center could do wonders. Not only will court staff and lawyers be healthier, but there will opportunities for creative contempt orders. Instead of tossing some obnoxious lawyer in jail, a judge can order 20 laps. Or a hundred situps.
The laps and situps can then be televised for view in the courtroom for a full measure of embarrassment.
That brings me to my next topic: courtroom pay-per-view. This is the sort of thing I've been advocating for a long time. There's no reason why all the entertainment provided by our judicial system should be given away for free.
Sure enough, as with all my wonderful ideas, someone is finally doing this. Check out http://www.courtroomlive.com/ . This is a venture by no less than ALM, the company that, among many other things, publishes American Lawyer and The National Law Journal.
For a fee, you can watch trials live or on tape on your computer.
There's a serious catch here, though - it's a tad expensive. I clicked on a couple of the "Buy this Trial" tabs and found prices ranging from $300 to $600 - per day!
And you thought Wrestlemania was expensive.
If you're like me - and I wouldn't wish that on anyone - you've watched enough episodes of The Apprentice to know that price points are crucial to success. How many people of sound mind are going to fork over $400 to watch one day of a trial? How desperate for entertainment do you have to be to do that?
I could be wrong here. Maybe ALM is making tons of money off these high-priced courtroom events, but somehow it doesn't seem likely.
No. Clearly the way to go with courtroom entertainment is to offer a few free, commercially-sponsored television trials to promote the live events. The live events in the courtroom multiplex would also be free - we do have this constitutional thing about public trials - but there's no law against merchandising and concession stands.
I want my souvenir gavel and my collection of judge bobbleheads.