It's an interesting question because I probably count about seven courthouses. However, some of the courthouses are outlying the San Fernando Valley but cover some of the ground in the Valley.
For example, Malibu used to be one of the courthouses that covered some of the ground in the Valley, but then they closed that courthouse down. What they've done – the powers in the San Fernando Valley- they have divided the cases that relate to what used to be Malibu's jurisdiction between the Van Nuys Court and the LAX Court.
So, it's interesting. You could get a criminal case on the outskirts of the San Fernando Valley right near Lost Hills Sheriff Station, for example, Agora, West Valley Circle, and end up having to go to the Airport Court, the LAX Court if they've divided your particular area up with the Airport Court.
The other half of those cases go to another one of the courts in the Valley, which is the Van Nuys Court. Van Nuys is handling, in my opinion, most of the San Fernando Valley – the west-end of the San Fernando Valley, the middle of the San Fernando Valley, and all the cities within the San Fernando Valley. So, if you are arrested for a crime, you're typically going to go to the Van Nuys court if it happened in the San Fernando Valley.
San Fernando Courthouse
There are some exceptions. San Fernando pretty much covers the north end of the Valley, so if you get anything on the north end of the San Fernando Valley, you're typically going to go to the San Fernando courthouse.
This is where another courthouse pops in to play, the Valencia courthouse. It's in Valencia which is still inside LA County, but not in the San Fernando Valley. But, because San Fernando is in the Valley, what ends up happening is felony cases that are arrested in Valencia are being shipped into the San Fernando court.
I don't know if it's the neighborhood around there or what the deal is, but they don't like bringing the Sheriff Buses and custodies into the Valencia court. So, even though cases are taking place in Valencia, they're being dealt with in the San Fernando courthouse. You might guess the combination of the north end of the Valley business, and the business from the Valencia system makes San Fernando a pretty busy court.
Burbank and Glendale Courthouse
Also, what I would consider in the San Fernando Valley is Burbank. Burbank court has been there a long time. I worked for a Superior Court Judge there in the early 1990s, so I know that system well. They're their little incorporated city, but they're still part of Los Angeles County and part of the San Fernando Valley.
Also, in that neck of the woods, a courthouse in Glendale usually handles minor traffic-related offenses. You're not typically going to see them dealing with felonies. They will send those on to the other court in the Valley, the Pasadena courthouse.
The Pasadena courthouse on the far end of the San Fernando Valley – the east end of the Valley – usually handles the most severe cases in the Burbank/Glendale and Pasadena areas. They're one of the immense power guys out there. Although it's a pretty old building, that courthouse is decent-sized. But, they're very comparable in terms of the seriousness of their cases.
That's pretty much it for the Valley courthouses. Any other courthouse related to the San Fernando Valley has been closed down for budget reasons. The big ones handling most of the business – most cases – are San Fernando, Van Nuys, and even Pasadena.
It's interesting because Burbank and Glendale kind of work well with Pasadena as far as Burbank will actually do some preliminary hearings on the felony cases in Burbank, and then after the preliminary hearing if there's any case left, they'll send it to the Pasadena courthouse.
Years ago, I had a significant case where they did the felony preliminary hearing, which I rarely ever see in Glendale. Then after the prelim, the issue was shipped – and it was a murder case – it was sent into Pasadena. The defense filed a 995 motion to dismiss all the murder charges against each of the five defendants, and the Pasadena judge pretty much overruled the Glendale judge and dismissed the whole case.
So, you need to know the system. You need to see how the Valley works – what courts are strict – what courts are a little easier to deal with – and then it gets a little more complicated because you have to know which crimes.
Retain a Criminal Attorney
For example, San Fernando is very tough on drug offenses and weapon offenses. At the same time, Van Nuys will be more challenging, in my opinion, on sex offenses. They're very vicious in that area, and they have a whole sex department where they're looking to send people to prison and make them register for the rest of their lives as sex offenders.
So, depending on where you are, what type of case you have – you have to know the ins and outs of that court system, the players in that court system, and the best source for that is your criminal defense attorney, who has a lot of experience in the particular courthouse where your case is pending.