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Historical Perspective of Marin Court

History of Marin County Courthouse

Marin County Courthouse Has a Rich History in San Rafael

The old Marin County courthouse in San Rafael was built in 1872-1873.

Those who grew up in Marin may recall that the county offices were all in this building, and the county jail was in the basement. Very few people were arrested for drunk driving in those days (even in the 1970s, drivers we were frequently given a friendly ride home by deputy sheriffs and local police), but if one did get charged and convicted, any jail sentence would be served here.

In 1960, construction began for the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin County Civic Center. The Hall of Justice, located in this building, was completed in 1969. By then, all of the county offices had been moved to the new structure, and the courthouses that are here today were opened.

Soon thereafter, on August 7, 1970, the late Marin County Superior Court Judge Harold Haley was assassinated at the courthouse when 17-year-old Jonathan Jackson smuggled guns into the courtroom (we didn’t have metal detectors at the courthouse back then) and tried to free the Soledad Brothers, who were San Quentin inmates standing trial. The prosecutor in the case was the late Gary Thomas, who was paralyzed by gunfire in the incident and later himself served as a Marin County Municipal and Superior Court judge (he was appointed in 1972 by Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who was then the Governor of California).

In 1971, the old courthouse burned to the ground.

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