Administrators will close the Bristol Superior Courthouse in August and move its personnel and cases to New Britain Superior Court.
The state judicial branch, which made the announcement Monday, said no jobs would be lost, and it would relocate about 30 court workers to New Britain.
The Bristol courthouse, which is known as GA 17, covers Bristol, Burlington, Plainville, Plymouth and Southington. The court primarily handles misdemeanors and lesser felonies, with serious felony cases usually transferred to the larger New Britain Superior Court.
Attorneys that have used the small courthouse on North Main Street told the Connecticut Law Tribune Tuesday that the Aug. 30 closing could have a negative effect on local residents. But, they said, it’s also important to maximize limited staffing resources.
“Sure, it’s sentimental, but it’s also a sign of the times,” said Bristol Corporation Counsel Wyland Clift, also a partner with Steeg & Clift.
“We are all trying to do more with less and that goes for everyone, those of us in private practice and in my practice as corporation counsel,” said Clift, who has been a partner in the law firm that bears his name since 2004. The firm handles transactional real estate, probate and business matters.
Clift, who said his office does work in the courthouse a few times a month, noted the court’s closure could impact some residents. He said the court handles a fair number of drunken-driving cases. “I think it’s important to have a facility like the courthouse in Bristol for people so they do not have to travel great distances,” Clift said. “It could affect Bristol residents logistically in their attempt to get rides if they’ve got driver-license issues related to DUIs.”
Clift said his biggest concern with the upcoming court closure is staffing.
“I have a concern that with all of the court’s business being moved to New Britain, what impact that will have on case flow in New Britain,” he said. “New Britain is a busy place.”
Adrian Baron, a partner with New Britain-based Podorowsky Thompson & Baron, works in the Bristol courthouse two to three times a month. Baron said it appears the Bristol court has started the process of moving its cases to New Britain.
“Bristol court was sending prosecutors in the afternoon to New Britain for cases,” Baron said Tuesday. “The facilities in Bristol were somewhat lacking. In the New Britain courthouse, you have the court services center and several courtrooms. In Bristol, you are limited to just one courtroom.”
But Baron added: “Geographically, it makes sense. The Bristol staff is very professional. I think they will mesh very well in New Britain.”
The state judicial branch said New Britain would be getting 17% more cases when Bristol closes it doors. It said, “There are enough courtrooms to handle the additional cases, and there is enough space in the courthouse to increase the number of employees needed to address the increased caseload.”