Judge calls for judicial complex

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Judge Hartley said that the Ninth Judicial Court will need two more judges and three to five more courtrooms in the next five years.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

District Judge Teddy Hartley believes Curry County is in dire need of a judicial complex.

His vision of a judicial complex would include the sheriff’s department, courts, adult detention center and juvenile detention center.

Previously he estimated the project would cost more than $10 million.

Hartley spoke to county officials at the courthouse during Tuesday’s public hearing to garner input on county capital outlay requests.

The courts are plagued with space issues, Hartley said, explaining judges must juggle schedules for three courtrooms to balance needs of different cases and a law library adjacent to the courthouse had to be remodeled to create office space for a new judge.

And the building is so old that sufficient modern security upgrades are cost prohibitive, the chief judge for the district said.

Someone visiting to obtain a marriage license or conduct a land or tax matter is currently filtered throughout the same security channels as those attending volatile criminal or domestic court proceedings, he explained.

A judicial complex including the detention centers would also cut down on the cost and risk involved in inmate transports to court, he said.

“I believe we would be best advised to combine the needs of the court with the needs of the county.”

“We need a criminal justice complex and we need to worry about security. We’ve got orange people running around here,” Hartley said, lightly referring to the orange jumpsuits worn by inmates.

Hartley estimated in five years the 9th Judicial District Court will need two more judges and three to five more courtrooms.

There are currently three courtrooms and four district judges utilizing the facilities at the Curry County Courthouse. A fifth district judge is headquartered in Roosevelt County.

“We do not have the space to dispense the justice required for the next few years,” he said.

The ICIP project summary provided to attendees at the hearing lists $1.5 million for renovations and improvements at the courthouse, $2 million for renovations and improvements at the adult detention center and $700,000 for office space for the sheriff’s department.

Other agencies such as the district attorney’s office, public defender, probation and parole and even the magistrate courts could be included as renters, he said.

Undersheriff Wesley Waller voiced support for Hartley’s presentation.

The sheriff’s department has continually expressed concern it is outgrowing its quarters in the basement of the courthouse.

“We’re both out of space (and) we share the same security concerns that the courts do and everybody does,” he said.

Other items listed for consideration are the funding for the Special Events Center, storage for voting machines, school bus road projects, funding for the Melrose Medical Clinic and more.

County Manager Lance Pyle said the public input would be balanced with administrative planning and a priority-based list of the top five recommendations for the County’s Infrastructure and Capital Improvement Plan which will be presented to commissioners at the Sept. 16 county commission meeting.