MADERA COUNTY – The next time you are summoned to appear for jury duty, the experience is likely to be far more pleasant as you report to the brand new Madera County Courthouse that replaces the century-old building in which the court has been operating.
On Friday, Aug. 14, several hundred people gathered for a ribbon cutting and tour of the $100 million, state-of-the-art courthouse, built just to the southeast of the current location.
The new building houses 10 courtrooms in 115,804 square feet of air-conditioned comfort, funded by the Trial Court Facilities Act of 2002, which began the process of transferring courthouses from County to State ownership. The new courthouse was paid for by the citizens of California through court user fees.
Judge Brian McCabe addressed the crowd last Friday, lauding the efforts of Madera Superior Court personnel in maximizing the use of every square foot of space in the well-worn old courthouse they will be vacating at last.
“A janitorial closet had been converted into a maintenance office,” said McCabe. “A store room had been converted into a staff break room. The configuration had interconnecting twists and turns rivaling the Winchester Mystery House. But Madera’s can-do spirit always prevails, and this project is a standard bearer for value and functionality.”
Court staff all agree that Madera County’s courthouse has gone from one of the absolute worst in the state to one of the best, and are excited to take up residence in their new digs.
The new courthouse is certified by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, and boasts such features as a highly reflective, single-ply thermoplastic membrane roof, and high performance glass that reduces heat gain and maximizes light entering the building.
At least 35 percent of the power is supplied by renewable energy sources, the landscaping is watered by stored rainwater as available, plumbing fixtures are water efficient, and the white granite that sheaths the building comes from the Raymond Quarry.
The lights automatically dim when it’s bright outside, and illuminate more when it gets dark. They also turn on and off when people enter or leave the room, and the building is flooded with natural light.
The ten courtrooms are equipped with the latest technology, including one huge screen plus smaller monitors for evidence display, touch screens, a high tech sound system, separate climate controls, and an ADA compliant jury box.
There is no more blocking off the hallways to allow persons in custody to be moved into yet another hallway to await their moment in court. They will now be transported up in an elevator to a waiting room just outside the courtroom.
The judge’s chambers are bright and airy, and the jury deliberation rooms come equipped with a microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker, and a private bathroom. Plus, the chairs are well padded and comfy.
There are also large screen TVs along the walls where jurors will be able to watch movies, plus desks and vending machines, and there is WiFi throughout the building.
For cases that attract a lot of attention from the public and the media, and whose numbers can’t be accommodated inside the courtroom, a live feed can be delivered from the courtroom to the large TV screens in the jury assembly room.
The new courthouse also has its own 3-story parking garage, freeing up the structure behind the old building for those attending Board of Supervisor’s meetings or visiting other County offices in the Madera County Government Center on 4th and G Streets.
The new courthouse is located at 200 South G Street in Madera (see map below).
After years of making the best of conditions in an old schoolhouse that was condemned half-a-century ago, court staff is looking forward to the move across the block, and “opening for business” on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Along the wall outside the jury room is this brief history of the Madera County Courthouse:
“The first permanent home of the Madera County Court was located immediately north of our new courthouse on West 6th Street. Built on donated land, the 1911 structure served its purpose as both courthouse and county government center for a half century.
In the early 1950s, the old courthouse and Lincoln Grammar School on Yosemite Avenue were condemned. The County of Madera purchased and remodeled the school building to “temporarily” house court operations, a move that lasted for more than another 50 years.
By 1998 the increased number of court cases could not be accommodated in this courthouse facility that was also in disrepair and had become expensive to maintain. The California Administrative Office of the Courts carried out a legislative mandate to examine and assess all of California’s court buildings.
Confirming the poor condition of the Madera County Courthouse, Madera was placed on a ‘critical needs’ list for a new courthouse. Ten yours of negotiating, planning, and design and and two years of construction have culminated in this new Madera Courthouse.”
Construction on the Superior Court of California, County of Madera Courthouse began in August 2012. The Architect was AC Martin Partners, Inc., construction was done by Gilbane Building Company, with construction management by Vanir Construction Management, Inc.