County investigates if courthouse must return to Roop family
The state took over the historic Lassen County Courthouse and court facilities in all 58 counties after the legislature passed the Trial Court Facilities Act of 2002. The state Administrative Office of the Courts now plans to build a new three-courtroom facility, with room for a fourth courtroom. The AOC predicts a new $36.1 million facility may open by 2011 at the earliest.
Chapman asked the county staff to review the transfer documents to see if there is a restriction. He said the county may need to bring the issue to state attention.
Both the historic courthouse, built in 1915, and the Courthouse Annex on Roop Street are “functionally deficient, overcrowded, and among the worst in the state in terms of security and physical conditions,” according to the AOC Web site at courtinfo.ca.gov/programs/occm/docum. It also said, “Separated court operations confuse the public and create operating inefficiencies.”
The state 2007-08 budget includes $31 million from the state court facilities construction fund for acquisition and $4.7 million for working drawings related to 12 courthouse construction projects. The budget includes $1.478 million to buy property for the new courthouse in Lassen County.
It’s AOC’s responsibility to review the transfer documents, according to County Administrative Officer John Ketelsen. He added the courts will still be using the historic courthouse on Lassen Street.
“They retain the right to that courthouse with ceremonial purposes,” Ketelsen said after the board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 27. “So it’s not true that they’ve given that up entirely.”
He added the provision in the original dead calling for ownership to revert to the Roop family may no longer be valid.
“There’s some legal issues as to whether or not that reverter continues to have validity,” Ketelsen said.
“Usually with reverters you have to do periodic renewals,” said County Counsel Craig Settlemire, adding the renewals must occur every 28 years or so.
“You would have to do a title search to really know exactly what the status of that reverter is,” he said. “They’re called reverters or possibility of reversion. They’re highly technical and you have to look and see what’s in the chain of title and whether or not there’s necessary steps to keep it active.”
It would also take research to determine the exact conditions under which ownership would revert to the Roop family.
“Is it enough that our agreement with the AOC says that the court still has the right to use that as a court facility?” Settlemire asked. “It says primarily ceremonial purposes but they do have that right under our MOU with them. And that may be enough to satisfy the terms of the grant.”
If someone says ceremonial court use does not satisfy the terms of the deed, Settlemire said the title search would be necessary to find out if the Roop family has done the necessary things to keep the reverter active.
Ketelsen said first the AOC will look at the deed and then the county will look at it. He added it may be some time before the question Miles raised is settled.
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