The Renovated Fresno Courthouse and Its Effect on Court Operations

Innovations in the California Courts - 20 of Years of Great Ideas

In what ways do new and renovated court buildings affect the actual administration of justice? The renovated courthouse of the Superior Court of Fresno County provides some answers.


Before and After—Lack of space in the family law clerks’ office created crowded conditions for staff. In addition to improved design, the renovation includes new or major improvements to the seismic, life safety, mechanical, electrical, voice data, and security systems. The superior court’s civil and family law divisions, with 15 judicial officers and 178 staff, moved into the B. F. Sisk Courthouse in November 2010.

Main entrance of the B. F. Sisk Courthouse, Superior Court of Fresno County. The courthouse project received the 2011 Notable Achievement Award from the Western Council of Construction Consumers.The five-story B. F. Sisk Courthouse is a former federal courthouse that was transferred to state ownership in 2007. At that time, the Superior Court of Fresno County had numerous facilities in Fresno; as a result, clients involved in family court proceedings might have to go to as many as five different venues to pursue their case. When the renovation was completed in November 2010, the superior court was able to consolidate all civil and family law services into the new 15-courtroom building. Family law clients now enjoy one-stop service. Screens display the day’s court calendars, enabling people to quickly and easily find where they need to go.

The designers of the courthouse planned for client convenience. Ample parking is available nearby. When clients enter the building, the first thing they see is a large electronic screen that shows which case is in which courtroom. There are several areas with computer terminals where clients can look up information about their cases.

The court building features 15 court¬rooms (and has a capacity for up to 16 courtrooms) in approximately 192,000 square feet.

In the superior court’s old facilities, there never seemed to be enough courtrooms, conference rooms, or rooms for special purposes, such as jury waiting rooms. The designers of the renovated building made provisions for all of these needs. There is even a cafeteria, visited not just for food but also as a place to take a break. At the many tables, people read newspapers or talk with friends, and lawyers meet with clients or go over their briefs. 

The children’s waiting room offers a safe place for children to wait while their parents are in court.The supervised children’s waiting room is another popular feature in the newly renovated courthouse. In this room, younger children play with colorful toys and older children read while they wait for their parents to finish with their court engagements. The room is on the first floor, just past the security checkpoint, and the close proximity of the uniformed officers at the checkpoint lends an air of safety and security.

Children and their parents are not the only ones who appreciate the enhanced security of the new building. Court staff mention the close attention paid to security details in the architect’s design; an example is the gated staff parking area.

Court staff also enjoy intangibles such as the quiet in the new building, the air of professionalism, and the greater sense of camaraderie. The staff took an active part in the design; for several years, they consulted with architects and sat in on design meetings, ensuring that their needs were addressed. The result is a courthouse where the needs of judicial officers, court staff, and public clients of the court have been incorporated into the building plan. This attention to design has created a courthouse that fulfills Goal VI of the Judicial Council: to provide a physical infrastructure that supports and meets the needs of the public, the judicial branch, and its justice system and community partners.




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