New courthouse opens in Merced County

LOS BANOS, Calif. (KFSN) -- Better security, more space, and easier accessibility were the goals set for the new state of the art Los Banos courthouse.

The Robert M. Falasco Justice Center opened earlier this year after court employees said the old county courthouse simply was not big enough anymore and a new one was badly needed.

"It was listed as one of the critical need courtroom facilities," said Linda Romero Soles, Court Executive Officer.

The $26-million courthouse has two state of the art courtrooms, a jury assembly room, and a self-help center.

Judge Mark Bacciarini said with 30-percent of their cases coming in from the west side of Los Banos, more accessibility for the city's growing population was crucial.

"What we decided was we needed to have a facility that could serve the needs of the residents of the west side and the citizens of those communities more fully, so they have the same access to justice as someone in Merced."

Following accessibility, security was also a top priority after several issues with how inmates were handled at the previous location.

"Just the proximity of everybody together created the potential for a security breach of some sort-- that was really unacceptable," said Bacciarini.

"Even the holding area, they were all congregated in one area-- looking back at it now, it's amazing that nothing serious ever happened," said Linda Romero Soles, Court Executive Officer.

The new building includes hallways that separate the inmates from the court staff and new screening and holding areas.

With more accessibility and more security employees soon hope to add in new technology to conduct video hearings and conferences.

The courthouse currently has one judge, but is working on hiring another one.

They currently do not hear family law cases but plan to start after January.
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