Charles D. Ramsey leans against his double-parked car in front of the D.C. Superior Courthouse on Indiana Avenue NW, keeping an eye out for anyone headed his way with a ticket book.
Police officers are everywhere, Ramsey said, but none is handing out tickets during the half-hour he is waiting. In fact, many of them are double-parked themselves.
"Every time I come down here, there's never enough parking for the people who need to go to the police department or the courthouse," said Ramsey, 33, who is not related to the city's police chief.
An 18-month-old effort by the D.C. Department of Transportation to redraw the traffic pattern outside the city's criminal justice complex in the 400 and 500 blocks of Indiana Avenue has, according to motorists and courthouse officials, made matters worse.
Construction and new parking rules have made it harder than ever to find a parking space, causing motorists to double- and triple-park on Indiana Avenue. Drivers complain that police take up too many of the few public parking spaces available, and government departments bicker over who should enforce the law by handing out parking tickets.
Court officials last week called a meeting with representatives of the D.C. Department of Public Works and the U.S. Marshals Service to discuss the reconfigurated block and its effects on traffic.
After discussions with the court about 18 months ago, the Department of Transportation revised a construction plan for Indiana Avenue to find more parking spaces, said Dan Tangherlini, director of the department. "We found roughly 50 spaces," Tangherlini said.
Twenty-five spaces directly in front of the courthouse were set aside for U.S. marshals, and the city began fixing a sidewalk across the street, temporarily closing off 25 other spaces. The construction is scheduled to be finished in the spring.
"The construction is temporarily making [parking] worse," Tangherlini said.
With more double- and triple-parking along Indiana Avenue, passing cars must negotiate a maze of vehicles in the middle of the street. That puts pedestrians in crosswalks at risk. Court-bound disabled people also face increased danger.
Motorists complain that police officers -- who have access to garage parking at their headquarters, down the block -- are taking up the few spaces left.
"You always see these police officers parked in the public parking spaces," said Keri Black, 24, who was double-parked for about two hours in front of the courthouse. "That's part of the reason there's no spaces left for those of us who really need them."
In a letter to the Department of Public Works last week, D.C. Courts Executive Officer Anne B. Wicks wrote: "The illegal parking gives a negative perception of the administration of justice. Persons have been overheard to say that there are two standards of justice: one for law enforcement and one for everyone else."
"Proceedings are delayed, witnesses are kept waiting, judicial officers and staff time is wasted, and attorneys are paid for time spent waiting because handicapped and restricted parking restrictions are not enforced," Wicks wrote.
Ticketing illegally parked cars, said courthouse spokeswoman Leah Gurowitz, is one way to unclog the street.
But therein lies some confusion.
Mary Myers, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works, said that as a matter of D.C. law, the department does not give parking tickets to government vehicles at parking meters. She also said that "great latitude" is given to police vehicles that are double- or triple-parked, under the presumption that they are conducting emergency business.
Regardless, Myers said D.C. police, not public works officials, are responsible for handing out parking tickets in an undefined area in front of the courthouse and police headquarters.
But Gurowitz disputed that. She said D.C. regulations allow only official vehicles with official permits to park in assigned spaces in the area. "There is no law that says that the Department of Public Works is not primarily responsible for enforcing parking in this area," Gurowitz said.
Wicks said in her letter to the department that a public works supervisor attending the meeting last week explained that the department avoids giving parking tickets to police officers for "fear of reprisal." Myers said the supervisor was caught off guard.
Wicks first wrote a letter in August to Teri Y. Adams, division chief of curbside management for the Department of Transportation, asking about the agency's major project to reconstruct the utilities, curbs and sidewalks in the 400 and 500 blocks of Indiana Avenue.
"The D.C. Courts are concerned that this construction will make permanent the problematic traffic and parking pattern that is currently in effect," Wicks wrote. She asked for an analysis of traffic and parking patterns in the area.
Wil DerMinassian, associate director of the department, wrote back that month, saying the agency would reply in six weeks. By October, having received no response, Wicks wrote again.
Finally, five months after sending her letter, Wicks received a reply that the department had conducted a comprehensive study of curbside and traffic patterns in the area, but, Adams said, "the study of this area is ongoing." Gurowitz said the court has never seen the results of any transportation study. Adams was out of the office last week and could not be reached for comment, said department spokesman Bill Rice.
Meanwhile, Department of Public Works spokeswoman Myers suggested that people who are headed to the courthouse or the police station consider taking public transportation. "Why burden yourself with a car when you're up at the courthouse?" she said.