Tulsa Vision 2025: August 2004 Archives

No vision for justice


At a time when Tulsa County has half a billion dollars for recreation and entertainment projects, the District Court is resorting to do-it-yourself expansion to relieve courtroom overcrowding:

It's been more than a year since former Presiding Judge David Peterson told commissioners that judges would be within their rights to ask the sheriff to build them additional court rooms and send commissioners the bill.

At that time, Peterson said the judges really didn't want to go to that extreme, but he did want to remind commissioners of their statutory duty to provide space.

Judges were promised new space several years ago once the district attorney vacated the fourth floor and moved to new offices on the eighth and ninth floors, once the old jail.

Though it's not exactly what they had in mind, there is a quick fix under way with construction of a temporary courtroom in space vacated by the district attorney more than a year ago. Commissioners are spending about $2,000 on materials and are using county carpenters to construct the temporary courtroom. Workers have already erected walls and will build a simple judge's bench and seating.

"It'll be pretty simple, but it'll work," said Court Administrator Ann Domin.

The temporary courtroom will help Special District Judge David Youll. Parties to his court often don't know where to go since he doesn't have his own court. Youll has to check with the other judges to see when their courtrooms are available. Sometimes they have to switch courtrooms in the middle of a trial.

"It's not a good position to be in for a judge," Domin said.

The lack of courtroom space means justice delayed, and could even mean that prosecutors don't pursue some criminal cases because they won't be able to give the defendant a speedy trial.

It's a familiar pattern: government spends money first on things that aren't necessary, so they can come back to us and demand a tax increase to pay for the essential, basic functions of government -- in this case, public safety and justice.

We're told that we will either have to vote for a new Central Library, in order to free up the current building for courthouse expansion, or else it might be included in the Four to Fix the County renewal in 2006.

Four to Fix the County? Yep. You just thought Vision 2025 gave the County all the money they were going to need for capital projects for the next 13 years, but now they plan to come back for a renewal of a 1/4-cent sales tax first passed in about 1994.

There are several unanswered questions and challenges ahead in deciding how the court's needs can be funded.

A new home for a family court system did not make the cut on the final list of Vision 2025 projects that voters approved last September. The family court plan hinges on voter approval of a bond issue to build a new Central Library at 11th Street and Denver Avenue.

The judges have their eyes on the existing Central Library and already have an architectural design for how it could be converted for court use. They also have an architectural and engineering plan for renovation of the fourth floor.

"I absolutely believe their needs are legitimate," Miller said. "We need to do something; but what that is, I don't know yet."

Miller said one possibility for funding renovations is an extension of the "Four to Fix the County" sales tax, which expires in 2006. County commissioners are already saying they will ask voters for an extension.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Vision 2025 category from August 2004.

Tulsa Vision 2025: July 2004 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Vision 2025: September 2004 is the next archive.

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