The new Division III Courtroom on the first floor of the Warren County Courthouse should be “up and running” by December, Associate Circuit Judge Wes Dalton recently told The Record.
Underscoring the approaching completion of the project was the presentation last week of a hand-carved state seal by State Rep. Bart Korman, who currently serves the 99th District. Dalton and Presiding Judge Keith Sutherland were present to receive the new seal, which Korman presented to the judges in the new courtroom.
A “very limited” number of carved state seals are produced each year, Dalton explained, adding that Korman helped “get this one for us. It worked out great for our time line.”
The seal was purchased using the 12th Judicial Circuit funds. Dalton said the purchase cost was less than $500.
Carved out of Missouri oak, the seal was made by inmates in the Missouri Department of Corrections Vocational Training program in Jefferson City, Korman said.
It will hang above the bench in the Division III Courtroom.
The courtroom will be used primarily by visiting judges to the 12th Judicial Circuit, Dalton stated. The 12th Judicial Circuit includes Warren, Montgomery and Audrain counties.
“It will really help alleviate problems with trial scheduling,” he continued. “It’s a great luxury for us to have this third courtroom,” Dalton said.
“We’re entitled to a second associate circuit judge, by population,” Sutherland noted.
The Division III Courtroom likely will be the “most modern and up-to-date” courtroom in the Warren County Courthouse, Dalton explained.
The Warren County Commission “did the right thing” by making sure the courtroom project specifications called for electronic filing (e-filing) capabilities.
There is more room for court clerks, and the attorneys’ tables will be equipped to allow usage of computers and other electronic devices.
An FTR Gold digital recording system also was included which will be used when a court reporter is not available for trials, Dalton said, noting that the Division III courtroom will be used only for bench trials.
“It’s not set up (to accommodate) a jury trial,” Dalton explained, adding that it would be “impossible logistically” for three jury trials to be in progress at the same time in the Warren County Courthouse.
Additionally, the civil department of the 12th Judicial Circuit will be moved to the first floor of the Warren County Courthouse, and the department which handles criminal cases will remain on the second floor, Dalton stated.
Employees with the Office of State Courts Administrator (OCSA) are expected to install computers and configure the system this week, said Dalton.
The courtroom also features ornate benches built during the 19th century which were refurbished by inmates at the South Central Correctional Facility in Licking, according to an article previously published in The Record.
The county commission budgeted $431,280.23 for the courthouse renovation project.