New Inyo County Courthouse

Superior Court of California, County of Inyo

Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010

Current Status
This project is in site acquisition. The current expected completion date is winter 2022. 

Vital Statistics
Courtrooms: 2
Square footage: 21,015
Current authorized project budget: $24,204,000 
More information

In anticipation of additional cost-cutting measures, all facts are subject to change.
The Superior Court of Inyo County currently operates in two towns; in Bishop at the north end of the county, and in Independence, 40 miles apart. None of its current facilities completely meet the court's operational needs and modern security requirements.

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 South County residents there.

Architecture/Engineering Firm

Natomas Architects, Inc.

Construction Manager at Risk

To be selected

Subcontractor bidding


January 2017

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 of 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, which is leased from the City of Bishop. 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 of Inyo. 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 space in Bishop. Because of overcrowding and accessibility deficiencies, the court also leases space inside a privately owned facility (known as “Department 2”).

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:

  • Deputies escort in-custody detainees in chains through public corridors and stairways, creating potential security risks.
  • Courthouse security screening is virtually non-existent.
  • Jurors gather in corridors accessible to the public because the courthouses have no jury assembly space.
  • Lack of an adequate queuing area for the clerk’s counter often results in a line of people and significant wait times.
  • Because there are no attorney/defendant meeting rooms, attorneys must meet with their clients in public hallways.
  • Other issues include inadequate systems for HVAC, mechanical, plumbing, fire prevention, seismic, and life safety, and cramped and inefficient working conditions for court employees.

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 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.

More information:

Judicial Council
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.

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Where will the new courthouse be located?

On August 17, 2015, the State Public Works Board (SPWB) approved site selection for this project on the preferred site, located at the intersection of Wye Road and U.S. Highway 6 in Bishop. Site selection approval enables the state to complete its due diligence, including environmental review, and negotiate with the site’s private owner for acquisition. When all deal points are agreed upon, the proposed acquisition will be submitted to SPWB for approval. A second site in Bishop at the intersection of MacIver and Spruce Streets, owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), has been designated as the alternate site, in part because LADWP’s approval process would cause a significant delay in completing the acquisition.

What is the process used to select the site?

Judicial Council staff worked closely with the Superior Court and the Project Advisory Group, which included community, legal, and government leaders to determine the preferred and alternate site for the new courthouse. Council staff follow a standard site selection process that involves objectively evaluating potential sites and selecting at least two that meet agreed-upon criteria, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule. Staff 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.

Why does the Judicial Council decide where the new court is built? Why isn't this a County decision?

Historically, trial courts functioned largely as county departments, but that changed in 2002, with passage of the Trial Court Facilities Act. This law made the State of California responsible for court facilities statewide, rather than the counties. The law gave the Judicial Council responsibility for facilities owned or occupied by the courts and made it responsible for operations, maintenance, and repairs, as well as site acquisition, planning, design, and construction of capital projects that replace or renovate courthouses. Council staff work closely with the Superior Court and the Project Advisory Group throughout the site selection process.



Will an environmental review be completed for the project?

The Judicial Council is the lead agency for the environmental review for the new courthouse. Once site options for this project are decided on, Judicial Council staff will determine the nature and level of environmental review required and conduct the review.

Will the new building be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?

Yes. The building will be designed with attention to sustainability. The building’s sustainability features are expected to qualify it for a LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. This is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance “green” buildings.



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, $1.5 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.



Who is the architect on the project?

San Francisco based Natoma Architects, Inc. was selected to design the new Inyo County Courthouse in Bishop. The company provides architecture, planning, and sustainability design services for civic, commercial, and institutional projects. In 2014, Natoma Architects won the Excellence in Architecture Honor Award from the San Francisco American Institute of Architects.

How are the architects for courthouse construction projects selected?

Judicial Council staff follow a competitive, qualifications-based process to select the architects. Qualifications under consideration include the experience of the design and technical staff, the previous experience of the firm, and other criteria. Once the firm is selected, the fee is negotiated, and an award is made.

What are the key milestones in designing the courthouse?

  • A Request for Qualifications is issued to find and secure the best-qualified firm.
  • Once site acquisition is completed, the architects begin the design, draw floor plans and elevations, and illustrate the design through renderings or scale models.
  • Once the design is complete and agreed upon, the preliminary plans are approved.
  • The design phase moves into working drawings.
  • Working drawings are approved and the project moves into construction.

Where can I see renderings of the new courthouse?

When available, renderings for this project will be posted on the project web page under the GALLERY tab.

Will the new courthouse be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?

Most courthouse projects funded by SB 1407 are being designed to qualify for LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. This is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance “green” buildings. The courthouse design will meet the energy-efficiency requirements set forth in LEED as well as by California Energy Code.



Who will build the new courthouse?

A Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) will be selected through a request for Qualifications and Proposals.

How will the CMAR be selected?

The CMAR will be selected through a competitive process factoring in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as the contractor’s fee. The CMAR is retained early in the project for preconstruction services. Following a competitive bid for all subcontracts and the approval to award, the CMAR becomes the general contractor. Selection criteria include an evaluation of the firm’s plan for outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms are fully aware of the bidding opportunity, the process, and the timeline.

What are the Judicial Council's policies with regard to local hiring and purchasing during design and construction? How will members of the public find out about these opportunities?

Once bonds are sold for this project and it is ready to be put out to bid, the construction manager at risk will become the general contractor. Before the project goes into construction, the contractor will conduct an outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms are fully aware of the bidding opportunity, process, and timeline. All qualified subcontractors, lower-tier subcontractors, and suppliers will be considered.

What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?

  • When the project is in architectural design, a Request for Proposals is issued to find and secure the best-qualified CMAR.
  • The CMAR in turn issues bid packages to qualified construction professionals to build the construction team.
  • The construction site is prepared, the foundation is poured, and the core of the building and protective shell are completed.
  • The building is enclosed and infrastructure systems are completed.
  • Interior fixtures and finishes are completed.
  • The newly constructed building undergoes quality control checks and the major systems are tested.
  • The finished new building is inspected and issued a certificate of occupancy.

When will the courthouse be completed and operational?

Construction is currently scheduled to begin in winter 2020; the courthouse is scheduled for completion in winter 2022. This schedule is subject to change.


Contact Info

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Capital Program

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