Judges lobby commissioners for new Summit courtroom
BRECKENRIDGE – Local judges lobbied the Summit County Commissioners Monday for construction of a new courtroom, saying they have simply run out of room.
“Someone once said, “If you build it, they will come,’ but we’re already there,” said District Judge Terry Ruckriegle. “We can’t keep up with the caseload without the courtroom. We’re now at that point.”
The lack of space means some cases stay in the system an additional two to three months waiting to be heard, Ruckriegle said.
Construction of a $1.1 million addition to the Summit County Justice Center is tentatively slated to begin in 2003. But commissioners said the wish list of 2003 capital projects is long, and they must be placed in order of priority.
“There’s still work to do at the landfill,” said county manager Ron Holliday. “There’s discussion about a recycling facility, a community building for events that don’t need a full-blown, weatherized facility.
“We’ll have a recommendation (of project priorities) to the board in early October.”
Ruckriegle and Fifth Judicial district court administrator Chris Yuhas want to be sure the Justice Center expansion tops that list.
“Do you want me to grovel?” joked Yuhas. “I can do that.”
Currently, district judges Ruckriegle and David Lass spend most of their time working in Breckenridge, and some of it in Lake and Clear Creek counties. The recent addition of a new district court judge – Tom Moorhead – could make it possible for Lass and Ruckriegle to “pull back” from spending time outside Summit County, Ruckriegle said, but not without the proper facilities.
“We’re trying to make use of that additional time,” Ruckriegle said. “Just in the less-than-one month we’ve had Judge Moorhead sworn in, I could have set something for trial if I had had a courtroom.”
County commissioner Bill Wallace said he’s fairly confident the Justice Center expansion will get the green light for 2003.
“I don’t see any problems, but we won’t know until we get the report from finance that says, “Here’s where we’re going to get the money from,'” he said.
The caseload shows no sign of easing, Ruckriegle told the commissioners.
“The reality is that these numbers jump up in times of economic stress,” he said. “Crime doesn’t dissipate in bad times.”
The center was built in 1985.
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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