Celebrity Justice Costs Big Time

Celebrity justice has become a costly endeavor.

All those famous faces showing up in court -- and all those cameras and reporters showing up to watch -- are putting a big strain on legal systems already stretched thin by budget cuts in many states.

How in the world can you keep "order in the court" with so many celebrities suddenly behaving so badly?

Just last week, Lindsay Lohan's appearance in court to face charges that she had violated her parole drew hordes of reporters and ogglers. Lohan was ordered to spend 90 days in jail.

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"Just in this last year we have had Conrad Murray with Michael Jackson, Roman Polanski, we have Lindsay Lohan, we have Charlie Sheen," former Los Angeles prosecutor Robin Sax said. "These cases are keeping us busy.

"We have Mel Gibson," she said, referring to reports that the actor could soon be facing criminal charges. "It is seemingly out of control."

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It may seem out of control because so many states are out of money.

California is $20 billion in debt, and in March, the Los Angeles County Superior Court, where many of the misbehaving celebrities wind up having their day in court, was forced to lay off more than 300 employees and to use furloughs to try to cut costs.

The cutbacks are coming while the courtrooms are overflowing with celebrities, and many say our system of justice is being short-changed.

"You're seeing hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars ... just for the security when a celebrity comes in to court," Sax said.

Both media and legal experts agree it was the gavel-to-gavel coverage of O.J. Simpson from 1994 to '95 that gave the public an insatiable appetite for courtroom drama.

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Harvey Levin, managing director of TMZ and former creator/executive producer of the show "Celebrity Jusice," from 2002 to 2005, said, "In a weird sort of way the courtroom has replaced the red carpet.

"When Lindsay Lohan was in court we broke records in terms of people watching the blow-by-blow action," Levin said.

The New York Times reports an army of 75 cameras and 300 reporters routinely stake out celebrity court dates.

"When you mix the peoples interest in law with peoples' interest in celebrity, it kind of becomes the perfect storm," Levin said.

The courthouse steps have become an expensive blur of cameras, lights and microphones that feeds the media firestorm, but no matter how famous the celebrity, once inside no one is above the law.