Orange County has accepted a state ultimatum to create two new courtrooms for displaced Supreme Court justices in space that is now being used for Family Court waiting areas, County Executive Edward Diana said yesterday. Mr. Diana’s comments came after a sharply worded letter from the court system indicating that it was running out of patience with the county’s response to flooding that closed the County Government Center—including six courtrooms—in September.
The new courtrooms and other adjustments to free up space in an open county courthouse annex represent an emergency measure. Mr. Diana said the plan backed by the state is “certainly reasonable” (NYLJ, Nov. 30). He estimated that the temporary fix would cost about $25,000 and should be ready by next month. He said the changes would buy the county at least two years to scope out more permanent solutions, such as a new addition to the existing courthouse annex.
In a letter Tuesday to Mr. Diana, Ronald Younkins, the director of operations for the Unified Court System, expressed OCA’s “growing concern over the pace of the County’s efforts to satisfy its statutory obligation to provide suitable facilities for the courts.” Noting that the situation had dragged on for almost three months, Mr. Younkins said, “our judges and staff are doing the best they can, sharing courtrooms and chambers in other facilities, staggering appearance calenders and delaying trials. The situation is unacceptable, and unfair to the judges, court staff, litigants, the bar, jurors, and the public at large.”
Mr. Younkins pointed out that the county had missed a Dec. 15 deadline to offer a plan for meeting the courts’ immediate facilities needs. He said that financial sanctions would be initiated if such details were not provided by Dec. 31. Mr. Diana continued to insist that he is getting along “fine” with the court system.