Both UC Irvine and the city of Santa Ana are competing to construct a state appellate courthouse on their properties. If UCI’s bid is accepted, the regional court would be located across the street from the University Research Park. UCI officials hope that having a courthouse on campus will provide new resources for students, as well as pave the way for a law school.
If the bid is accepted and the courthouse is built, the university would have a ‘living legal laboratory on campus,’ according to Executive Vice Chancellor Michael Gottfredson.
The 4th District Court of Appeal was originally located in Santa Ana, but eventually grew beyond the city’s capacity, resulting in two of the judges’ chambers being housed in separate buildings.
If Santa Ana’s bid is accepted, the city plans to house the courthouse in the city’s Civic Center on Ross Street, the same location of the Orange County Superior Court and state and federal government offices. The courthouse will take the place of Santa Ana’s former jail in the Civic Center, which is less than two acres.
Any individual, city or organization in California owning property can bid to have the courthouse built on their land.
As of now, only UCI and the city of Santa Ana have given bids.
A judicial council, an agency of the state, will review the proposals and ultimately decide who gets to have the courthouse built on their property. The estimated cost of constructing the courthouse is $17 million. The property of the winning bidder will be sold to the state judicial counsel, who will finance the construction.
Eight justices would then be chosen to preside over the court.
If the appellate courthouse is built on university property, it will be an advantageous step in the university’s dreams of creating a law school.
‘The courthouse will be a very nice asset for a law school to have,’ Gottfredson said. ‘These ideas are all part of [UCI’s] proposal.’
If the courthouse is built on UCI property, approximately two-and-a-half acres of the research park will be allocated for the courthouse, which will allow for a 54,000 square-foot building and 130 parking spaces. There are also specific conditions that the university outlines, including having an open law library and using the facilities for instructional purposes and internships.
‘Students would be able to look at judicial processes and jointly use the facilities of the courthouse, including the law library,’ Gottfredson said. ‘Students can get internships there, as well. Faculty could use [the courthouse] for instructional purposes.’
The state appellate courthouse would also be an asset to students looking into the legal field because they would be able to watch actual trials and deliberations. Also, the courthouse would most likely improve UCI’s reputation.
‘In addition to the research and education benefits, having the court on campus would make UCI a highly visible center for legal scholarship and practice,’ said Associate Executive Vice Chancellor Michael Clark.
Khoa Le, UCI Pre-Law Society’s internal president and a fourth-year double major in political science and economics, has high hopes for UCI’s courthouse bid.
‘I believe it will be a positive move for UCI to provide students [they would have] the ability to examine and experience how the legal system operates, because it will provide students with opportunities to get a better sense of what happens in an appellate courthouse,’ Le said.
Bryce Plank, a third-year political science major who plans on going to law school, believes a law school at UCI would be a great advantage for students.
‘I think a courthouse on campus would be good if it led to a law school, but I only wish that they had one while I’m still a student here,’ Plank said.
UCI will know if their bid is accepted within a couple months and if it is accepted, the construction of the courthouse will take about two years.