New Federal Courthouse, Talking Urinal Cakes Listed in Senator's 'Wastebook'

A new federal courthouse was among the top 100 items deemed wasteful by a senator who publishes an annual “Wastebook” list.

The courthouse to be built in Los Angeles would cost $322 million and would replace a building with security and asbestos problems, according to The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. The cost of building the courthouse was previously estimated to be $1.1 billion, resulting in scaled-back plans. But the list’s author, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., says the Government Accountability Office is still critical of the project.

The BLT listed other law-related projects on the list, including these:

• A $500,000 National Science Foundation grant for online training that teaches law students how to act like business lawyers. Coburn said in the report that a project that helps rising attorneys should be privately funded.

• $10,000 from the Department of Transportation to buy talking urinal cakes to fight drunk driving in Michigan. One of the messages says, “Listen up. That’s right! I’m talking to you. Had a few drinks? Maybe a few too many? Then do yourself and everyone else a favor. Call a sober friend or a cab. Oh, and don’t forget. Wash your hands.”

• $500,000 from the U.S. Justice Department used by Alabama officials to install courthouse security cameras. The cameras could zoom in to read text messages, and the sound system was so good it could hear conversations between lawyers and defendants. The audio recording is now shut off to avoid constitutional problems. A cheaper system would have been a better choice, the report says.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.