Riverside is home to one of the most beautiful, grand old historic courthouses in the country, dedicated in 1903 and carefully restored in the 1990s. Riverside County is also home to one of the worst court facilities in the state, in Banning. For starters, judges park right back here, a huge security risk.Brenda Tucker, Facilities Supervisor “Because if you have your judicial officers parking and you have your in custodies watching them in their vehicles, later they’re not happy about something, they know exactly what the judicial officer looks like and what he’s driving. That’s a problem.”
This is the main entrance, which typifies the cramped conditions.
Mary Tripp, Banning Court Manager “We’re running into each other all the time.”
Staff are squished in like sardines in a building constructed in the 1950s. It’s especially tight in customer service areas, with visitors jockeying for their turn at the window.
Connie Bailiff, Courtroom Assistant “There’s no room, everything is just kind of piled up, or sometimes placed on the floor.”
Citizens who show up for jury service have no place to congregate.
Mary Tripp, Banning Court Manager “We don’t have a jury assembly room so we had to, people were standing around in the hallways.”
Hon. Jorge Hernandez, Riverside Superior Court Judge “The heating there’s a problem, air conditioning is a problem, the smells are a problem, I know that we’ve got asbestos in this building, there’s just a whole lot of things that are wrong with this building.”
So there’s been strong local support to build a new courthouse, evident by the big crowd at the official groundbreaking ceremony.
Hon. Sherrill Ellsworth, Riverside Superior Court Presiding Judge “I know that the cities of Banning and Beaumont are ecstatic and this whole pass region are just thrilled about this event that we are about to embark upon.”
There’ll be 6 courtrooms, a self help center, additional customer service windows, a multifunctional jury assembly room, a large lobby so people don’t have to wait outside in the heat and cold; altogether 68,400 square feet. And sufficient parking - in a perfect location at the hub of the county’s population centers.
Banning’s mayor predicts a significant boost to the economy.
Don Robinson, Banning Mayor “The $63 million investment in our community will not only provide hundreds of new jobs to our community and region, it will also encourage additional investment in our downtown corridor.”
Hon. Douglas P. Miller, Judicial Council “The estimate alone here in Riverside county just for the construction of this court facility is approximately 300 jobs.”
Especially welcome where the unemployment rate is more than 12%
Marion Ashley, Riverside County Supervisor “You look on a scale of how important things are to a community and the scale is zero to 10, you know this is probably somewhere between a 14 and a 15.”
But Court Executive Officer Sherri Carter observed: it’s about more than jobs.
Sherri Carter, Riverside Superior Court Executive Officer “It’s important to remember that this courthouse will expand access to justice for the citizens of Riverside County.”
Hon. Sherrill Ellsworth, Riverside Superior Court Presiding Judge “This new court is going to give us the opportunity to do a lot of good for our entire county.”
Hon Mark Cope, Assistant Presiding Judge “This courthouse will stand as a beautiful metaphor and a beautiful symbol of the rule of law.”
In partnership with the Administrative Office of the Courts, and funding from fees and fines authorized by Senate Bill 1732, move in is scheduled for the fall of 2013.
I’m Leanne Kozak reporting from Banning in Riverside County, for California Courts News.