Madera County's courthouse is on the move

MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- After a few years of construction, the new building officially opened Tuesday.

Compared to its predecessor, the new Madera County courthouse seems a modern marvel. Computer screens greet visitors and announce where to find court cases.

In the hallways and the courtrooms, high-tech equipment has replaced bulletin boards.

"We have projectors," said presiding Judge Ernie LiCalsi. "We have audio-visual equipment. We even have white noise."

The old courthouse is still home to the district attorney's office and the probation department, as well as a destination for a few confused folks. The old building was once a schoolhouse before it was condemned and converted to a courthouse. The place was built like a confusing maze, its temperature was often uncomfortably hot or cold, and its design provided almost no comfort, even in the room reserved for jurors about to dole out justice.

"The last building was in a trailer, believe it or not," said jury services coordinator Diana LaFlumboise. "Our seating was all lawn chairs."

The new chairs are a lot more comfortable. There's artwork on the walls from Madera County. There is a restroom attached to the jury room here and the air conditioning actually works.

So the jurors have a lot more space, the judges actually get a view outside their courtrooms, and everyone should be safer with a new, isolated transport system for inmates.

"In the old courthouse, the inmates used the same hallway that the employees did and in many cases that the public did," said Judge LiCalsi. "Inmates walked right past my chambers."

A few bugs followed the staff from the old building, but Judge LiCalsi has already called for fixes. He says the new building should help make everyone's job easier for 50 years to come.
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