NORMAN — Cleveland County officials are reeling with excitement over the possibility of getting a new judge, but some modifications will have to be made at the courthouse.
Fortunately, a courtroom is available.
“There is an open courtroom in the basement that has previously been used, and right now, when we bring in a visiting judge, that is where he or she lands,” District Court Judge Tracy Schumacher said.
That space includes judge’s chambers and a bailiff’s office.
“That courtroom has a secretary’s office,” Schumacher said. “There is no court reporters office, so we’d have to find a space for the court reporter.”
Special Judge Jequita Napoli also has a courtroom in the basement, she said.
“The thing I’m looking at, is the overall courthouse and the room that we have,” County Commissioner Rod Cleveland said .
Cleveland said commissioners will work with the judges to provide whatever is needed.
“That basement courtroom is not ideal for a district judge because the volume of people you can have with a district judge can be large,” Schumacher said. “It does have a jury box, so you can conduct a trial in there, but it’s pretty tight quarters.”
The new judge would be elected in 2014 and would take office in 2015, so if the measure passes, the county will have time to make preparations.
“I was glad the commissioners were conducting a building audit to see what the needs are going forward because this county is rapidly growing,” Schumacher said. “The commissioners — hats off to them because they’re on top of it. Norman is not just the sleepy little suburb of Oklahoma City. Cleveland County is the third largest county in the state.”
Crowding in courtrooms is already an issue. Often family members and other interested parties are not allowed in courtrooms when the special judges have large dockets.
“The new judge is sorely needed,” Schumacher said, “and so is the building audit. Even the courtrooms that the special district judges have on the fourth floor, and those are the newest, are sometimes too small for their dockets.”