Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
In Independence, the Court uses two buildings: the historic Inyo County Courthouse and the Department 2 facility. The Inyo County Courthouse is a neo-classical revival style building constructed in 1921, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Court shares this building with the County of Inyo, which owns the building.
The Department 2 facility, a few blocks from the main courthouse, was originally built as a church and is leased to provide a spare courtroom that is minimally ADA-compliant. Both facilities in Independence are overcrowded, physically deficient, and lack security features to current standards.
In Bishop, the Court operates a single courtroom, Department 4, in a city-owned facility. Because of the scheduling challenges a single courtroom in Bishop present, the Court occasionally must borrow the city's council chambers. This space is not always available.
The authorized project would provide a modern, secure courthouse for all case types. On April 29, 2011, the Judicial Council adopted a recommendation from its staff that the new courthouse be built in Bishop, so site selection in Bishop is under way. The Independence courthouse will remain open, and the Court will continue to provide services to the south county residents there.
Natomas Architects, Inc.
Construction Manager at Risk
To be selected, schedule TBD
What is the current status of the project?
The new Inyo County Courthouse is in the site acquisition phase, with an expected construction completion date in winter 2022. This schedule is subject to change.
Why does Inyo County need a new courthouse?
The Superior Court of Inyo County provides court services from two locations. In Bishop, the Court operates out of the former Municipal Court, located inside City Hall. Sixty percent of the population lives in this northern part of the county; seventy-five percent of court filings originate from this area. Due to space and personnel constraints, the clerk’s office has a limited capacity to handle these filings. Consequently, the majority of criminal, civil, family, probate, and juvenile cases must be filed at the historic courthouse in Independence, 40 miles south.
In Independence, the Court shares the historic courthouse with the County. Because of overcrowding and accessibility deficiencies, the Court also uses a leased space inside a privately owned facility (known as “Department 2”). Built in 1921, the neo-classical, revival-style courthouse in Independence is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Virtually all criminal and juvenile proceedings and jury trials that last longer than two days are conducted here, due to the lack of a second courtroom in Bishop and because the County Jail and Juvenile Hall are nearby.
The courthouses in both locations are severely overcrowded, and have significant security, life safety, logistic, and accessibility issues that prevent the Court from providing safe, secure and efficient services to Inyo County residents. Examples include:
What is the plan for the new courthouse?
Located in the county’s population center in Bishop, the New Inyo County Courthouse will house one courtroom and a hearing room in approximately 21,000 square feet. It will create a modern, secure courthouse for most court functions, including civil, traffic, small claims, family, juvenile, criminal, and probate proceedings and investigations. Improved security features will include separate hallways for the public, court staff, and those in custody, adequately sized and separate holding areas for in-custody detainees, a secure sallyport, and security screening for all court users. The project will also provide adequate space for services including a self-help center, appropriately sized jury assembly and deliberation rooms, clerk’s area, a children's waiting room, and family court mediation and attorney interview/witness waiting rooms, significantly improving access to justice for Inyo County residents.
What will happen to the court’s current facilities when the new courthouse is completed?
The Court will vacate its space in Bishop City Hall. In Independence, the lease for Department 2 will be terminated. The current plan for the Historic Independence Courthouse is to vacate it when a proposed new modular courthouse is constructed directly adjacent to the County Jail. Judicial Council staff will work with the Court, City of Bishop, and the County to help determine the disposition of the Court’s space in both buildings.
Was renovation considered before the plan to build a new courthouse was decided on?
The Judicial Council evaluated renovation as an option and found that it would not be feasible. Inyo County owns the Historic Courthouse, the City of Bishop owns the City Hall, and in the majority of cases, the state cannot conduct a full renovation on buildings it does not own.
Who is the Judicial Council, and why are they managing this project?
The Judicial Council is the policymaking body for the California court system, including the trial courts, known as Superior Courts, based in each county. Among other responsibilities, the council through its Capital Program office is responsible for planning, acquisition, design, renovation, and construction of court facilities. The new courthouse will be owned by the judicial branch.
Judicial Council Staff
How has the local community had input regarding the courthouse project?
The Project Advisory Group, required by Rules of Court and state law, is the main source of ongoing community input to the project. The Project Advisory Group is composed of community, legal, and government leaders. Judicial Council staff work with the group throughout the site selection, design, and construction process. Staff have also held meetings for county residents to comment on potential sites, either in person or in writing. Project updates will continue to be posted to the California Courts website, and media advisories will be distributed at key milestones.
SITEWhere will the new courthouse be located?
ENVIRONMENTAL PROCESSWill an environmental review be completed for the project?
How is the new courthouse being funded?
The courthouse was ranked as a “Critical Need” in the judicial branch’s capital-outlay plan, making it among the branch’s highest-priority infrastructure projects. It is funded by Senate Bill 1407, enacted in 2008 to provide up to $5 billion in bond funding for new and renovated courthouses using court fees, penalties, and assessments rather than taxpayer revenues from the state’s General Fund.
How did the state arrive at its budget for the project?
Council staff develop each project budget by first determining the building size, site size, and number of parking spaces. Then it provides this information to a professional cost estimating firm that creates a hard construction cost for the building and site work. To this, staff add all project soft costs, which includes all costs associated with evaluating, selecting, and acquiring a site analysis required to comply with CEQA, the fee for the architecture and engineering team, geotechnical testing, project management and construction management fees, commissioning fees, and the cost of furniture, fixtures, and equipment.
How can the state afford a new courthouse at all, given current state finances?
To fund desperately needed renovations and repairs, criminal penalties and assessments, parking offense penalties, and civil filing fees were created or increased. This ensured a revenue stream to finance courthouse construction and renovations, promising these projects would be paid for from within the court system rather than drawing on the state's General Fund or local taxes. When the project is ready for construction, the state will sell bonds to finance the project. Once the courthouse is completed and occupied, the same revenue stream will repay those bonds over 25 years.
What is the impact of the state’s current budget crisis on this project?
Since 2009, $1.8 billion in court construction funds have been borrowed, swept to the General Fund, or redirected to court operations. As a result, this project, as with other courthouse projects statewide, has been subjected to delays. In addition, every Senate Bill 1407 project has been required by the Judicial Council to undergo budget reductions. These reductions are overseen by a statewide oversight committee of justices, judges, and public building experts established by the Judicial Council.
DESIGNWho is the architect on the project?
CONSTRUCTIONWho will build the new courthouse?
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