Missing Judges not Missing

That was the question on the face of a bewildered man as he approached Courtroom 158 only to find large sheets of plastic and yellow tape designating the area as a construction zone.
He wasn’t alone. Others coming to the Tulsa County Courthouse for hearings on protective orders and arraignments were similarly confused.
Ann Domin, court administrator who was standing nearby, reviewed the man’s paperwork and directed him to the sixth floor of the Tulsa County Courthouse and Courtroom 605.
Judge Wilma Palmer and Judge Millie Otey have been moved to the sixth floor for an estimated two months.
That is because the first floor facilities, Courtroom 158 used by Judge Palmer for protective orders, and Courtroom 178 used by Judge Otey for arraignments, are temporarily closed for remodeling.
When work is completed Judge Otey will be in the courtroom 158 which will have 113 spaces instead of 62. Judge Palmer will move to courtroom 173. That courtroom will have 72 spaces instead of 42. The number of people who can sit on the courtroom benches determines spaces.
Most of the new space is the result of moving walls and moving the bar closer to the judge. One jury box also will be removed to provide additional area.
Domin said that it has long been recognized the downstairs courtrooms were inadequate, but it has only been through the 4 to Fix Tulsa County funding that remodeling has been possible.
Since the fourth floor courtrooms have been remodeled and opened, it was possible to turn attention to other critical needs on the first floor.
The old courtrooms were small and it often was impossible for clients, attorneys and family members to crowd in to hear the proceedings. They were required to wait in hallways until it was their turn to appear.
Judge Otey has the arraignment docket and is responsible for more than 300 hearings daily. Judge Palmer is responsible for the probate docket and goes to other sites for mental health hearings.
It has taken a massive amount of coordination to move the courtrooms and allow for remodeling, Domin said. Input from the sheriff’s office was required to ensure safety of the public if prisoners were required to be in court. Staff members from the Tulsa District Attorney’s office and Court Clerk’s office also had to provide input so their respective offices could do their jobs.
In addition, the MIT department became involved with it was discovered that R2D2, a portable video unit could be adapted to the temporary facility so Judge Otey could continue doing video arraignments from Courtroom 605. Without that technology, either she would have to go to the David L. Moss Correctional Center to conduct arraignments or prisoners would have to be taken to her courtroom.
Signs are posted in various places instructing people about the change. In addition, courthouse security personnel are helping guide people to their proper destination.
While there is some chaos on the sixth floor because of additional traffic, everyone is working together and adjusting to this temporary situation, Domin said. People destined to appear in Courtroom 173 now go to Courtroom 605.
For the most part this is a quiet floor, she said. Judges have been very flexible in solving problems.
The entire courthouse staff also is helpful and is appreciated. The district attorney’s office and the court clerk’s office have been wonderful in adjusting personnel to meet the need. The sheriff’s office has helped keep hallways quiet so those people in hearings could have their day in court.
Even construction noise is being controlled to minimize disruptions in the courts.
Work is being done before 8:30 a.m., between noon and 1 p.m. and after 5:30 p.m., Domin said. Flintco personnel doing the work estimate the remodeled courtrooms will be operable in two months.

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