"The nice thing here is that nobody ever sees prisoners," says Elise Cohen, Adams County's clerk of the court. "In the old building, they used the same door that the employees, the jurors and the public did."
Cohen says the public enjoys greater access to court records than before, since county and district files are now consolidated in one place. But if the file you're looking for happens to be checked out to a particular courtroom, there's no way to contact the clerk of that courtroom directly--there's no separate entrance to the clerk's office, and many of the courtrooms are locked when not in use. The search can entail paying a fee, hunting from floor to floor, making calls on wall phones to clerks hidden away in cubicles out of public view and, finally, being led back to an "employees only" area of the building to actually review the file.
Facilities chief Pat Myers, the project manager for the new justice center, says the building was finished under budget and on time--"We actually missed the completion date by eight hours"--and offers more amenities than even he expected. The view from the cafeteria courtyard takes in not only Barr Lake but a well-groomed, ballfield-sized expanse of grass planted behind the center.
"The particular thing I like about it is to go sit in that courtyard and look over that lawn to Barr Lake and feel relaxed," he says. "That's probably a good statement to make about a courthouse."
Yet the reason the grass is so immaculate is that there's no access to it. It's entirely fenced in, a look-but-don't-touch accessory. Like the new justice centers, that green space may look inviting from afar, but just try to use it.