Bill Boyarsky
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A serious night at Central Library

central-library-lao.jpgCentral Library west entrance. LA Observed photo.

The central library is the intellectual town square of downtown Los Angeles. Authors speak to book lovers gathered in the library's simply designed, elegant Mark Taper Auditorium. Exhibits, such as current "Radical Kinships," honoring 30 years of Homeboy Industries and its work among L.A. youth, tell the story of the city. The library's New Americans Initiative guides immigrants through American life rather than scorning them.

The great facility, itself, is honored in Susan Orlean's excellent "The Library Book," telling the story of the 1986 fire, which all but destroyed the library. It was rebuilt through the efforts of Angelenos--rich, middle class and poor who would not let it die.

Wednesday night, the library continued its community involvement with a deep dive into one of the most important aspects of civic life--the courts. It was serious and detailed. No Trump. No hot speculation on the plans of Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom. Yet the auditorium was almost filled for a conversation between Kathryn Mickle Werdigar, a retired California Supreme Court justice, and Jim Newton, an author, UCLA faculty member and editor of UCLA's public policy magazine Blueprint. The California Supreme Court Historical Society, along with Public Counsel, sponsored the event. Public Counsel is the public interest law firm that defends the city's poor and helpless.

Werdegar is a restrained and modest person and it took all of Newton's journalistic skill to draw her out.

Like most judges, Werdegar is sympathetic to voters confronted by long lists of appellate and other judges on the ballot. With the exception of voters getting information from sources such as the Los Angeles Times and the League of Women Voters, Californians know little about the judges. But she wouldn't do away with such elections. "I don't think lifetime appointments are a good thing," she said.

The most interesting part of the conversation was when Newton asked Werdegar about how the court is dealing with societal and technical change. He mentioned privacy, water, technology and other aspects of science. These issues often end up in court, finding their way to the Supreme Court.

Newton asked if the court was equipped to handle such matters. "Probably not," Werdegar replied. "Science gets ahead of us."

It was a worthwhile evening and lawyer Bob Wolfe, a devoted historian of the courts, deserves much credit for helping put it together.

Susan Orlean's "The Library Book" has made our downtown library a national celebrity. Wednesday night's nuts and bolts discussion of the Supreme Court reminds us of another side of the library, always working to educate and explain L.A. and bring the community together.

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