Sacramento County, New Sacramento Criminal Courthouse

New Sacramento Criminal Courthouse

Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento

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

The new building will relieve overcrowding in the Gordon Schaber Courthouse

Current Status
This project is in architectural design-preliminary plans. Construction is estimated to start in summer 2019 with a completion date of summer 2022. This schedule is subject to change.

Vital Statistics
Courtrooms: 53
Square footage: 538,000
Current authorized budget: $489,957,000
More information

In anticipation of additional cost-cutting measures, all facts are subject to change. Completion date is based on fiscal year calendar.


Courthouse project announced, 2009 (1:54)

February 2018
In January 2013, the JCC of California (JCC) indefinitely delayed the New Sacramento Criminal Courthouse project due to the State's fiscal crisis and continuing cuts in court construction funds. In the state's Fiscal Year 2014-2015 Budget, the Legislature allocated $40 million in one-time cash for court construction projects. In response to a recommendation from the JCC’s Court Facilities Advisory Committee, the JCC sponsored legislation to appropriate approximately $27 million for preliminary plans and working drawings for the new courthouse for Sacramento. After approval of the legislation in September 2014, the JCC proceeded with architectural design─preliminary plans activities, and it expects to complete the courthouse’s design in March 2018. The Legislature also approved additional funds for the project’s working drawings phase, which will prepare detailed construction drawings and specifications. The JCC expects to complete the working drawings phase in April of 2019.

Project Background
The Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento, provides services from seven different court locations in Sacramento. The Superior Court’s main facility is the Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse, which the County of Sacramento built in 1965. Originally designed with only 22 courtrooms, this courthouse now has 44 courtrooms for criminal, civil, probate, and small claims cases. The facility is very overcrowded, and it lacks many significant features that are needed to safely function as a criminal courthouse.

The JCC initially planned to provide a new 44-courtroom criminal courthouse to replace 35 courtrooms of the Schaber Courthouse in a new courthouse in Sacramento’s Railyard, provide minor renovation of the Schaber Courthouse, and consolidate most of the court's criminal operations and court functions from other downtown leased facilities into the two facilities. After completion of a Final EIR and filing of a Notice of Determination for the new courthouse in 2011, the State purchased a site, Lot 41 in the Sacramento Railyards, for the new courthouse. The 2.4-acre site is located at the northwest corner of the intersection of H Street and Sixth Street.

The JCC now proposes to revise the proposed criminal courthouse project to build one courthouse, the New Sacramento Courthouse, that consolidates the functions planned to be housed in a renovated Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse and the New Sacramento Criminal Courthouse. Both functions will be located in the New Sacramento Courthouse on Lot 41 in the Railyards. The new courthouse will have approximately 540,000 square feet of space and be 18 stories high (approximately 270 feet), which is approximately 135,000 square feet larger and 2 stories taller than the original project. The new courthouse will include 53 courtrooms. The modified project will not include renovation of Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse. Instead, after completing and opening the new courthouse, the JCC will close and secure the Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse and its parcel. The JCC will request Legislative approval for disposition of the Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse (through a sale or transfer of the property or another action) in accordance with State requirements.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance
After a lead agency’s certification of an EIR, if the lead agency proposes substantial changes to the project or substantial changes to the project’s circumstances occur or there is new information of substantial importance, Section 15162 of the State CEQA Guidelines describes the conditions under which a subsequent environmental document will may be prepared. An addendum to an EIR is appropriate and consistent with CEQA Section 21166 and CEQA Guidelines Sections 15162, 15163, and 15164 when a previously certified EIR has been prepared and the lead agency proposes some changes or revisions to the project or the circumstances surrounding the project have changed, but none of the changes or revisions will result in significant new or substantially more severe environmental impacts. The JCC is preparing an addendum to evaluate and confirm CEQA compliance for the revised proposed project changes to what the JCC described and evaluated in the 2011 Final EIR. The JCC filed the Addendum on March 8, Interested parties may obtain a copy of the Addendum with these links:

Interested parties can submit comments or questions on the Addendum to:
Mr. Jerome Ripperda
Senior Facilities Analyst, Facilities Services
Judicial Council of California
2860 Gateway Oaks, Suite 400
Sacramento, CA 95833-3509
916-263-8865 (office), 916-263-2342 (fax)

Architecture/Engineering Firm


Construction Manager

Intent to award

Subcontractor Bidding

Schedule TBD

What is the project's current status?

The project is currently in architectural design-preliminary plans. In January 2013, the Judicial Council indefinitely delayed the New Sacramento Criminal Courthouse project due to the state's fiscal crisis and continuing cuts in court construction funds. In the state's Fiscal Year 2014-2015 Budget, the Legislature allocated $40 million in one-time cash for court construction projects. At the recommendation of its Court Facilities Advisory Committee, the Judicial Council sponsored legislation to appropriate approximately $27 million for architectural design of the new Sacramento courthouse. The legislation was signed in September 2014, so architectural design will proceed. However, funds for construction of this project have yet to be legislated. If construction funding is not secured, the Sacramento project will again be delayed.


Why do we need a new courthouse?

The Sacramento County Superior Court provides services from seven different court locations within downtown Sacramento. The main facility is the Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse, built in 1965. This courthouse was designed for 22 courtrooms and now has 44 courtrooms for criminal, civil, probate, and small claims cases. All seven facilities are severely overcrowded and have significant security, life safety, and accessibility issues that prevent the Court from providing adequate judicial services.

What is the plan for the new courthouse?

The new 44-courtroom, 405,500 square-foot criminal courthouse will help solve the current space shortfall problem, improve security and life safety, replace inadequate and obsolete buildings, and consolidate court operations from seven buildings into two. The project, which includes a minor renovation of the Schaber Courthouse, will terminate five leases and relocate a technology support unit from a county office building. After the new facility is complete, all civil functions will be heard in the Schaber Courthouse. This project will greatly improve operational efficiencies and access to justice for county residents by consolidating all judicial services into two facilities: The New Sacramento Criminal Courthouse and the Gordon D. Schaber Civil Courthouse.

Was renovation considered before the plan to build a new courthouse was decided on?

Renovation of the Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse was considered, but did not prove to be an option due to severe overcrowding in the main courthouse and the deteriorating conditions in all of the court’s seven facilities. Examples:

  • Deputies escort in-custody detainees in chains through non-secure public corridors. They are then held in jury rooms while they await trial.
  • Service counters, courtrooms, and restrooms do not meet accessibility requirements.
  • Public hallways are used as waiting areas with no separation of jurors from trial witnesses or families of defendants. The jury assembly room is too small to handle the large number of jurors needed. The court must use an open mezzanine, which is noisy and lacks proper security, as jury assembly space.
  • The number of holding cells is insufficient to meet the court’s needs. Separation of in-custody detainees, which includes gang members, women, adult males and juveniles, is nearly impossible.
  • Additional problems shared by all the facilities include overcrowding, poor seismic ratings, lack of automatic fire-detection systems, safety and accessibility issues, and cramped working conditions for court employees.

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 public has input through the Project Advisory Group, which includes members of the Sacramento Court, local government representatives, justice partners, and members of the business community. The California Environmental Quality Act process also enabled the public to review and comment on the environmental report before it was finalized. Throughout the construction process, members of the advisory group will be available to the community to answer questions.

What will happen to the current courthouse when the new courthouse is completed?

When completed, the new criminal courthouse will free much-needed space in the Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse which, after minor renovations, will become a civil courthouse.

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What is the location of the new courthouse?

The new courthouse will be located on a two-acre site at Sixth and H Streets in downtown Sacramento. The block, currently a city parking lot, is at the southernmost end of the Sacramento Railyards, a few blocks away from the Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse and key justice partners. The Sacramento Railyards site received strong support from community leaders, including endorsements by the Sacramento City Council, the County of Sacramento, and state legislators. It is anticipated that the new criminal courthouse will serve as an anchor building and will help jump-start growth of the Railyards project, which will double the acreage of downtown Sacramento.

What was the process used to select the site?

Judicial Council staff worked closely with the Superior Court and with the Project Advisory Group, which includes judges, court staff, representatives from city and county government, justice partners, and the business community, to determine the preferred and alternate sites. Staff followed a standard site selection policy and process. The process involved objectively evaluating potential sites and selecting at least two sites that met agreed-upon criteria for the proposed new courthouse in providing access to justice for Sacramento County, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule. The presiding judge signed off on the preferred and alternate site, and the site selection was approved by the council's Administrative Director and the State Public Works Board.

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 each affected Superior Court and justice agency stakeholders throughout the process of replacing or renovating courthouses. By Rules of Court, staff involve the public primarily through the Project Advisory Group, although depending on the needs of the project, public input may be sought at various stages.



Was an environmental review completed for the project? Who is the lead agency?

Through its staff, the Judicial Council is the lead agency for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In April 2011, council staff circulated a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which evaluated the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and recommended mitigation measures. A meeting was held that May for the public to comment on the draft EIR. Those unable to attend were encouraged to provide written comments to Judicial Council. In response to public comment, council staff completed the Final EIR. On July 21, 2011, Judicial Council staff filed a Notice of Determination, thereby completing the CEQA process.

Will the new building be energy efficient?

Yes. The building will be designed with attention to sustainability. Energy-efficiency features include advanced conservation methods in heating and cooling, artificial lighting, and plumbing. The building’s sustainability features will qualify it to receive a LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building initiative.



How is the new courthouse being funded?

The courthouse was ranked as an “Immediate 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 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 initial budget for the project?

Judicial 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, council 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 the lingering effects of the recent recession?

To fund desperately needed renovations and repairs, penalty assessments and parking offense penalties were increased, and civil filing fee surcharges were created. 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 taxpayer revenues or local taxes. Once the courthouse is completed and occupied, the same revenue stream will repay those bonds over 35 years. This means that funds from other court jurisdictions will support Sacramento’s critical needs in years to come.

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, the Judicial Council indefinitely delayed this project, starting after the completion of site acquisition. Prior to that, the project underwent a cost-reduction process required of all SB1407 projects, reducing the construction budget by 14 percent.

In the state’s 2014-2015 Fiscal Year Budget, the Legislature allocated $40 million in one-time cash for court construction projects. At the recommendation of its Court Facilities Advisory Committee, the Judicial Council sponsored legislation to appropriate approximately $27 million for architectural design of the new criminal courthouse. The legislation was approved in October 2014, and architectural design is proceeding. However, funds for construction for this project have yet to be legislated. If construction funding is not secured, the Sacramento project will again be delayed.



Who is the architect on the project?

NBBJ has been selected to design the new Sacramento criminal courthouse Founded in 1943, NBBJ is now a global firm that has been named among the top 10 most innovative architecture firms by Fast Company. The firm designed the New Stockton Courthouse for the San Joaquin Superior Court and is designing New Redding Courthouse for the Shasta Superior Court.

How are architects for courthouse construction projects selected?

Judicial Council staff use a competitive selection process, factoring in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as its fee.

What are the key milestones in designing the courthouse?

  • A Request for Proposals is issued to find and secure the best qualified architect firm to begin the design process.
  • Once site acquisition is completed, the architects complete design development, floor plans, and elevations, illustrating 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?

The first phase of architectural design for this project is expected to take a little over a year, completing in early 2016. When ready, renderings will be posted on the project web page under the GALLERY tab.

Will the new courthouse be energy efficient and sustainably designed?

This project will incorporate forward-thinking elements of sustainable design and is expected to qualify for a LEED Silver rating from U.S. Green Building Council. This is the national standard for sustainable design. Numerous energy-saving features will make the courthouse more economical to operate over time.



Who is the construction manager at risk on the project?

Once architectural design nears completion and funds are legislated for the construction phase of the project, Judicial Council staff will begin the search for a qualified general contractor to fulfill the role of construction manager at risk (CMAR).

How is the contractor selected?

Staff to the Judicial Council use the construction manager at risk method for delivery of major capital projects such as the new Sacramento Criminal Courthouse. The competitive selection process factors in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as the contractor’s fee. Following a competitive bid for all subcontracts and the approval to award, the CMAR becomes the general contractor for the project.

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 general contractor.
  • 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.

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?

If and when funding is legislated for construction, bonds will be sold. The project will be readied to be put out to bid, and the construction manager at risk will become the general contractor on the project. Prior to the project going 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.


Contact Info

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Capital Program

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San Francisco, California

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