Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Friday, July 15, 2005

As a rule I love courthouses, but the federal courthouse in Central Islip is an exception: it's just about the most user unfriendly building I have ever been in. This is quite an accomplishment in the context of federal courthouses, which are not much about giving you the warm fuzzies in the first place, but this one is special. The cab pulled up and I shook my head, "G-d that's an ugly building." The cabbie laughed. "Give me a card so I can call for a ride when the judge is through yelling at me."

Incongruously named for Senator Alphonse D'Amato, the building sits in the middle of nowhere, just off the grounds of the old mental hospital. It is a big white box, with a lot of glass and a lot of fake ductwork on the outside, and a big oatmeal box shaped structure stuck on the front like a silo. If Frank Gehry designed barns, this is what they'd look like.

Inside there is the usual security checkpoint, staffed by marshals in blazers who are so bored they can't even muster the interest to be irritable. They take your phone, of course, and make you empty your pockets. For some reason you get to keep your shoes on when you go to federal court.

There are two magistrates with the same last name out in CI-- to further complicate things their initials are "M" and "J"-- the same initials that are used to indicate "Magistrate Judge". Of course they are on different floors, and naturally when you ask the cheery marshals they direct you to the wrong place.

There are dummy monitors in the lobby instead of a building directory, so the mis-information provided by the marshals is all you have to go on. You take the elevator up to what you know will be the wrong floor. The building is long-- about a city block long, with the elevator bank and a huge atrium dividing the two wings. There is another dummy monitor, and no other indication as to where the courtroom you are looking for might be, so you take your 50/50 shot, and guess wrong, every single time.

If there is an attorney's lounge I haven't found it yet. There is no wireless internet, and I'm sorry if complaining about that makes me sound like a big baby-- the effect of taking my phone and preventing me from getting on the net is that when I enter the building it means I have entered a gigantic time suck, where I will be able to accomplish nothing until the judge takes the bench, in his own sweet time, and starts picking on me.

Don't get me wrong-- I kind of like this judge, who seems to know what he's doing, and seems to have a sense of humor, but the Eastern District Courthouse in Central Islip experience, taken as a whole, is profoundly alienating. The interior of the building would not be out of place as a set on the Sci-Fi channel, with catwalks and more exposed ductwork. I wanted to shout, "Soylent Green is people!" but managed to restrain myself. Posted by Picasa

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