Our View: Justice Center overshadows process' flaws

Perhaps it's fitting that it took a failed ballot initiative, a court order, a reversal of that court order, two years of public debate, a decision by a federal agency and a dismissed lawsuit to build the new Routt County Justice Center - where similar legal battles will be fought long into the future.

It was a messy process, but after five years of controversy, what remains is an impressive facility that will house our courts and court-related offices and services. It's a facility that should be celebrated.

The public will get its first chance to tour the 52,000-square-foot building during a grand opening ceremony from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. today. What the community will find are state-of-the-art courtrooms; judges chambers, jury deliberation rooms and new offices for court administrators, clerks and the District Attorney's Office; a beautiful, naturally lit entrance; and 150 solar panels that will produce 37,880 kilowatts of electricity annually. And, of course, there's the tunnel that will ferry prisoners from the adjacent Routt County Jail to the Justice Center.

There is no doubt Routt County needed a new building for its courts. But the process by which we arrived at today's grand opening is worth revisiting.

- November 2002 - Routt County voters rejected a $17.2 million ballot issue to build a justice center and parking garage in downtown Steamboat. County commissioners spent $2.2 million on land purchases and architectural designs for the downtown site.

- December 2002 - Routt County Judge Richard Doucette ordered county officials to construct a new justice center by Sept. 1, 2006. The Colorado Court of Appeals later overturned the order.

- 2003 - County hosted public meetings to discuss possible justice center locations. Two years of debate ensued, with the Steamboat Springs City Council and a group called Friends of the Justice Center advocating for a downtown site. Commissioners supported a site west of town, adjacent to the Sheriff's Office.

- July 2003 - County commissioners vote unanimously to pay for justice center with reserves and certificates of participation, meaning taxpayers fund it without having to approve it through a vote.

- August 2004 - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a preliminary decision denying the county's application for a wetlands permit, which was needed to construct justice center at west Steamboat site.

- August 2004 - Commissioners prepared three additional studies, at a cost of $15,000, in an attempt to sway the Army Corps' decision.

- May 2005 - Army Corps reversed preliminary decision and authorized construction at the west Steamboat site.

- June 2005 - A lawsuit filed by Towny Anderson challenged the wetlands permit decision and was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge.

- April 2006 - Excavation and construction work began.

We disapproved of some of the actions taken by the county commissioners to build the Justice Center in west Steamboat, particularly their secretive approach to dealing with the Army Corps of Engineers and their decision to take the public out of the process - while still making them pay for it - by funding the facility with certificates of participation.

But all of that is now water under the tunnel, so to speak. In the end, the final product is a gem. We think the new Routt County Justice Center is a

landmark building that should be applauded.

Community comments

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(Anonymous) id04sp says...

This is a clear-cut example of our corrupt County commission going to extraordinary efforts to defeat the will of the people of Routt County.

With all the complaints about the "underfunded" Routt County Sheriff's Office, everybody needs to understand that the money wasted by the County on the Kangaroo Kourthouse was totally unnecessary under state law.

The citizens of Routt County do not have equal access to the judicial system and do not receive fair treatment in accordance with the written law. If there was justice in this county, the wrongdoers who use the system for personal power and profit above the rights of the people would be strung up from those fancy new rafters as an example to other public servants that we're just about fed up with the way things are.

Posted 12 September 2007, 6:48 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) steamvent says...

With this rambling you have finally outed yourself as as nothing more than a mindless kook who likes to see his BS in print. But then, most of us knew that already.

Posted 12 September 2007, 7:36 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) id04sp says...

The people who know the truth are, sadly, the ones responsible for upholding the law.

Everybody knows that an attorney will advise his client to never admit anything.

Denial is a way of life. Learning to lie with a straight face is the purpose of having mock trials in law school. Those who cannot do it stay away from litigation.

There's no such thing as making it right because it's the right thing to do. You only do what you are compelled to do by a court order. This is how attorney's fees get padded by the courts. Every time a lawyer opens his mouth or puts pen to paper, it costs somebody $200.

The purpose of our civil court system is to settle disputes among citizens. In fact, the civil courts are too often a venue where financial coercion in the form of high attorney's fees wins out.

The courts and the attorneys know that most average people will be deterred from seeking justice and pay up on unlawful and fraudulent debts rather than hire an attorney. Attorneys are quick to tell you how much it will cost to try to protect your rights, and that "throwing money" at the problem to make it go away is the cheapest alternative. This simply institutionalizes state-sponsored extortion. The whole system is designed to provide income for attorneys licensed by the State of Colorado, with whatever justice that happens to fall out as a side effect.

There are only two things that will get an attorney in trouble in Colorado. One of them is failure to pay child support. The other is taking money from a client that hasn't been properly billed for services rendered, and this includes abandonment in the course of litigation.

Nice building. Too bad they didn't put the windows where you can actually observe the reptiles in their natural environment.

The Kangaroo Kourthouse sits there as a monument to abuse of the written laws and the governmental power of the State of Colorado. The only thing it's missing is a statue of Judge Doucette standing on a pedestal surrounded by the County Commissioners while Justice looks the other way.

Posted 12 September 2007, 8:10 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) steamvent says...

Nice follow-on rant ... I rest my case.

Posted 12 September 2007, 8:55 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) id04sp says...

I think if we "traced" the source of the problem it would be revealed in very short order.

One of the most heinous crimes is the manufacturing of evidence by police officers. There is almost no greater abuse of power.

Almost.

When the officers of the court conspire to violate the written law for personal or political gain, that's worse.

Have you ever noticed that, when I post along this general line of interest, nobody ever comes back with a substantive argument?

The truth is, that if the truth be known, it would convict the people who are covering up the abuses. They cannot come up with a counter argument without revealing the fact that laws were broken to obtain a judgment in favor of a person with political pull.

The general public cannot find the records. They are hidden in Denver where nobody can see them without knowing they exist and specifically asking for them. Who do you think that's supposed to protect? Me? Hardly.

I have my own attorneys. I've discussed these matters with them. The problem is, what would YOU do if you were an attorney in a small town and had to deal with the same people in order to make your living? (Psst. You wouldn't do anything either).

From Wikipedia:

RICO

"Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a United States law which provides for extended penalties for criminal acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization"

We'll have a Democratic Attorney General and Department of Justice in about 16 months. I can wait.

Posted 12 September 2007, 10:20 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) id04sp says...

Also from Wikipedia:

Under RICO, a person or group who commits any two of 35 crimes-27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes-within a 10-year period and, in the opinion of the United States Attorney bringing the case, has committed those crimes with similar purpose or results can be charged with racketeering. Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and/or sentenced to 20 years in prison per racketeering count. In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of "racketeering activity."

There is also a provision for private parties to sue. A "person damaged in his business or property" can sue one or more "racketeers." The plaintiff must prove the existence of a "criminal enterprise." The defendant(s) are not the enterprise, in other words, the defendant(s) and the enterprise are not one and the same. There must be one of four specified relationships between the defendant(s) and the enterprise. This lawsuit, like most Federal civil lawsuits, can take place in either Federal or State court. [1]

Both the federal and civil components allow for the recovery of treble damages (damages in triple the amount of actual/compensatory damages).

Although its primary intent was to deal with organized crime, Blakey said that Congress never intended it to merely apply to the Mob. He once told Time, "We don't want one set of rules for people whose collars are blue or whose names end in vowels, and another set for those whose collars are white and have Ivy League diplomas."[2]

Under the law, racketeering activity means:

Any violation of state statutes against gambling, murder, kidnapping, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical (as defined in the Controlled Substances Act).
Any act of bribery, counterfeiting, theft, embezzlement, fraud, dealing in obscene matter, obstruction of justice, slavery, racketeering, gambling, money laundering, commission of murder-for-hire, and several other offenses covered under the Federal criminal code (Title 18).

In June 1984, the Key West Police Department in Monroe County, FL was declared a criminal Enterprise under the Federal RICO statutes after a lengthy United States Department of Justice investigation. Several high-ranking officers of the department, including Deputy Police Chief Raymond Cassamayor, were arrested on federal charges of running a protection racket for illegal cocaine smugglers. [3] At trial, a witness testified he routinely delivered bags of cocaine to the Deputy Chief's office at City Hall.

RICO; It's not just for civilians anymore!

Posted 12 September 2007, 10:33 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) addlip2U says...

What a disappointment in the building design (for 21st century) and lack of "efficiency" in use of space, operation and maintenance.

Posted 13 September 2007, 1:15 p.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) id04sp says...

Check out the numbers on this site.

http://www.city-data.com/county/Routt...

If these numbers are right, the Commissioners spent the equivalent of nearly two full years property tax collections on this one building.

By going around TABOR and gutting the treasury to build the injustice center from tax reserves, the county missed a golden opportunity to CUT our property taxes by at least 1/3. An average household paying $1300 per year in property tax (based on approximately 8000 houses, condos and apartments) paid 1.75 years of property tax to fund this thing.

This was a totally unnecessary expenditure of county funds on a building that most of the county residents will never even visit. It was built to house STATE employees!

The taxpayers of Routt County need to take some affirmative action right now to remove the current commissioners and freeze the reserve account so that it can never be used again for any purpose except to recover from some catastrophic natural disaster, act of war, etc.

Posted 13 September 2007, 2:21 p.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) RoxyDad says...

id04sp -- I love the comments about lawyers!!

Posted 13 September 2007, 6:43 p.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) sickofitall says...

I like to call it the "Injustice" center :)
But hey, your vote still counts!

Posted 18 September 2007, 6:41 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) steamboatsconscience says...

Its all Gary Wall's fault!!!!!!!!
Right Dundalk?
LOL

Posted 19 September 2007, 5:02 p.m. Suggest removal

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