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Court ready to make its move

October 31, 2000

Court ready to make its move



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

New CourthouseJudge Noel Spence said his new chambers in the J. Louis Boublitz District Court in downtown Hagerstown are a big improvement over his current office a block away.

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The new $3.9 million courthouse at 36 W. Antietam St. is scheduled to open for business Monday after a weekend move from the current location at 35 W. Washington St., one block to the north.

Spence and fellow District Judge Ralph France soon will preside over two new courtrooms equipped with modern sound and video systems.

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Courtroom"I'm just thrilled," said Spence. "The atmosphere is so superior to what we have now."

Spence said he's pleased with the lighting in the new courtrooms. "It's so bright without being glaring."

Acoustics are good too - perhaps too good.

Known for his stern speech at the beginning of each court day about the audience talking during court sessions, Spence said he will have to emphasize that in the new building.

The 27,000-square-foot, two-story building's entrance is on Antietam Street. Visitors will go into a lobby where they will be scanned through metal detectors, as they are now at the old building.

The first floor houses criminal and civil clerks, payment windows, a drive-in garage for deputies and prisoners, cells, meeting rooms and a state-of-the-art filing system.

"The bond commissioners will also be on the first floor where they have a separate entrance for after hours," said Dixie Scholtes, administrative clerk for District 11, which covers Washington and Frederick counties.

The public will have two elevators to access the second floor where the courtrooms are located. All rooms are handicapped accessible including the courtrooms where the witness box is on wheels.

There is also a separate elevator with a security cell for prisoners being taken to the courtrooms.

"This is so the deputies will be secure during these transports to the second-floor holding cells," Scholtes said.

Also available on the second floor are rooms capable of housing jurors should that ever become necessary, Scholtes said.

District Court proceedings currently do not involve juries.

"A third courtroom has also been allowed for if it is needed in the future," Scholtes said.

France said the new building will provide for greater efficiency as computers are upgraded and files can be stored where they are readily available.

"It will also be a much healthier place for people to work," France said.

Court sessions currently are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekdays and that will continue for now, Scholtes said.

"Other Maryland counties are experimenting with staggered start times for District Court and we may do that too in the future," Scholtes said.

If cases are set to begin at several different times of the day, it would ease parking and crowding woes for court participants, she said.

The lot was formerly occupied by the Brandt building, which was razed in 1997 after the state paid Vincent Groh $390,000 for the site.

The building was named for J. Louis Boublitz who was appointed to the newly formed District Court for Washington County in 1971 and served until his retirement in 1982. He died in 1997 at the age of 83.

The formal dedication of the building is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 10 a.m.

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