At the Inyo Supervisors’ meeting today, presiding Inyo Superior Court Judge Brian Lamb ran into a buzz saw of public
feelings. Some accused Lamb of single handedly relocating the Inyo County Seat.
Lamb did publicly confirm that he and Judge Dean Stout decided to move a $30 million court building project long planned for Independence to Bishop. Without any public discussion or debate on the issue, the Judges did an about face.
For months, plans had unfolded to build the new court facility in Independence. The State approved the project for Independence, based on need. Judge Lamb reasoned that more people live in Bishop so the massive project should locate there. Lamb concluded that the current court has not helped Independence economically and wouldn’t in the future.
Supervisor Marty Fortney argued for location of the project in Independence – close to the jail in the County Seat. Fortney said, “To move this to Bishop is a big slap in the face.” Lamb said he wants the greatest access to justice for the greatest number. He explained that a much smaller court facility could go up next to the jail in Independence at a cost of less than $2 million and that court matters in southern Inyo would still be handled in Independence.
Lamb seemed to say that the Bishop location would help workers who live in Bishop. Supervisor Susan Cash said the issue should not be driven by where people live. She advised Lamb that he should listen to members of the public with an open mind and reconsider his decision. Supervisor Cash said Lamb should honor the status of the County Seat. “Independence is our county seat. It’s history. It’s the site of the county jail.”
Supervisors Richard Cervantes said Lamb’s plan diminishes Independence and Lone Pine. “The public seems to have no choice,” he said. “You cut the people out of the process.”
All of the Supervisors said they had received a flood of phone calls and emails, some downright angry. Independence residents stood up to object.
Nina Weissman of Independence challenged Judge Lamb’s claim that the court building would not help Independence. But she stood up for the fact that Independence is the seat of government.
Kirk Peterson said Judge Lamb “wrote us off.”
Long-time Independence citizen and Eastern Sierra businessman, Bruce Ivey said of Judge Lamb, “He made a unilateral decision. He showed a lack of foresight. Most economic development in the last 20 years,” said Ivey happened in Southern Inyo – Coso Geothermal and Crystal Geyser.” Ivey said moving the court building could be the last nail in Independence’s coffin.
Nancy Masters said the business of Independence is government. She advised citizens to let the judges know about their feelings. “This is the County seat,” she said. “No decision is immutable.”