Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Courthouse Design

The rule of law and courthouses are the cornerstone of our democracy.  The National Center for State Courts has recently published the third edition of Retrospective of Courthouse Design 2001-2010, describing noteworthy federal and state projects across the country and a few from overseas. 96 projects are published in the volume, 94 are courthouses, plus a judicial training center in New York and a statewide IT center for the Arizona Supreme Court - I am jealous. There are some beautiful and highly functional facilities featured, including the Ohio Judicial Center in my home town, Columbus, which I have heard is fabulous from several people, and the Brooklyn Supreme and Family Courthouse, which is notable as a public-private partnership with 180,000 square feet of speculative office space included.

In an introductory article, my friend Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer makes a point that I have been wondering about lately.  He contrasts the emergence of the virtual courthouse - the rapid evolution of 24/7 access to case information and court services in many places - with the need for physical facilities where humans can come together, concluding:  "Courts mus plan and budget for not only a large investment in sustainable and scalable technology infrastructure to support remote court services, but physical justice centers that are co-located with trial courts for one-stop resolution of stakeholder-intensive cases (e.g., family, juvenile, criminal, and mental health cases.)"

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