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What a Stink - Sewage Floods Court Building

July 22, 1993

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Odor in the court 3/8 Odor in the court 3/8

The county’s already-clogged justice system was overflowing after a broken sewage pipe turned law and order to law and disorder at one of the nation’s busiest criminal court buildings.

The 19-story high-rise was closed Tuesday afternoon and the court calendar was thrown into chaos when health officials ordered a water shutdown and mass evacuations.

The building, labeled uninhabitable, remained closed Wednesday. But no one told the bulk of Wednesday’s workers, jurors, witnesses, defendants or attorneys - who came to the building as usual.

″That’s the way it goes. If there’s a plumbing problem, there’s nothing you can do about it,″ said juror B.J. Tibbs of Pasadena, after she was told to go home.

Dozens of lawyers, clients and jurors arrived only to find their cases postponed or transferred to other courts.

Outside the building, crews broke up asphalt with jackhammers and an earth mover dug trenches to reach the broken main 10 feet below the surface. Inside, crews disinfected flooded offices and worked to air out the stench.

Eight deputy marshals stood at the courthouse doors redirecting jurors and turning away visitors, including a delivery man toting subpoenaed documents for the court.

The sewer main broke Tuesday morning, and water flooded the court’s administrative offices, seeping into two parking garages where inmate holding cells are located.

″My building manager says he’s never had a break like this before,″ said general manager Hildo Hernandez.

Not everyone was disappointed by the closure.

″Ya-hoo 3/8″ whooped Jay Carter of Los Angeles, after learning his trial on a theft charge had been pushed back a day.

Carter, 39, arrived for his 8:30 a.m. trial about 10 a.m., but noted that his tardiness ″won’t count now.″

″I have another day to spend with my girl before they pass sentence on me,″ he said, pointing to the gleeful woman on his arm. ″I’m going back home to drink a couple beers, then I’ll gladly come back tomorrow. Ya-hoo 3/8″

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