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STILL NO VERDICT ON COURTHOUSE
Questions and answers about the city courthouse

 Fredericksburg sheriff's Cpl. David Sullivan looks at peeling paint in the jury room of the 1852 portion of the city's landmark judicial center.
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Date published: 1/23/2011

BY EMILY BATTLE

Fredericksburg is under no court order to build a new judicial complex at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.

Judges have been pushing for years for a more modern facility that better meets the needs of today's criminal justice system and the volume of cases that regional growth has driven into city courtrooms.

Virginia law gives circuit court judges the power to initiate a process that could put localities under order to make courts safe for public use.

But last year, the General Assembly placed language in the state budget that allows localities to delay any court-ordered court upgrades until June 30, 2012.

As they proceed with efforts to find a solution for improving Fredericksburg's three courts, City Council members have asked local legislators in the current General Assembly session to support extending that locality-initiated delay another two years.

At a work session earlier this month, council members were told by Circuit Judge Gordon Willis that they had a "lawful duty" to provide adequate court facilities.

"If you neglect your lawful duty then there can be repercussions," Willis said at the meeting.

The courts issue dates back almost half a decade. As it remains on the council's agenda, here are a few things to keep in mind about the paths this project has taken in recent years.

;">Why does the council think we need new courts, anyway?

Back in 2005, the late Circuit Judge John W. Scott Jr. sent a letter asking the city to build a new courts complex.

In response, the city hired Moseley Architects to perform a study on what kind of court facilities would be needed to meet Fredericksburg's current and future courts needs.

That study came out in 2007 and cost $87,000.

Moseley had projected a caseload of about 2,600 for Fredericksburg Circuit Court by 2010, but the city was already exceeding that in 2007, and in 2008 caseloads blew past it, topping off at 3,163, according to statistics from the Virginia Supreme Court.

The load was down to 2,470 in 2009, but statistics available through the first three quarters of 2010 show caseloads on track to grow again.


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