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Hall County courts shuffle in annex plan
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Deputy Clerk of Hall County Probate Court Amy Bessette searches for a file Monday afternoon in the records vault at the Probate Court offices inside the Hall County Courthouse. Although no timelines have beeen set, Probate and Juvenile court are planning to be moved into the less cramped courthouse annex.

With the preliminary plan for reopening of the courthouse annex, the functions of the Hall County Courthouse will shift around like checkers on a checkerboard, said court administrator Reggie Forrester.

But the biggest piece to jump will be the addition of security measures for Juvenile Court and Probate Court.

“Until we get that building finished over there, we can’t move the first players to free up the space over here,” Forrester said.

The hope is to move Juvenile Court to the top floor of the courthouse annex, Forrester said, with Probate Court controlling the main floor.

One of the biggest effects of the change will be giving judges like State Court Judge Larry Baldwin his own courtroom. Judges B.E. Roberts and Charles Wynne, Forrester said, currently give up their courtrooms for a week at a time to allow Baldwin to conduct business.

“If you’re not conducting court, you’re not really producing like you ought to,” Forrester said. “Your calendar gets stretched out and backlogged.”

Baldwin, under the current plan detailed by Forrester on Monday, would take a courtroom currently used by Magistrate Court. The second Magistrate Court courtroom would be used for pleas, motions and revocations twice a week.

“We think it will help the growth issue for the next 15 years or so,” Forrester said.

Magistrate Court then moves to take Juvenile Court’s space on the courthouse’s third floor. Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard will take on the space used by Probate Court, where the solicitor’s office employees have started working in the hallways, Forrester said.

“Her office space joins the probate judge,” he said. “As a matter of fact, there’s a door from her space right into probate.”

Forrester said no estimates were available Monday on the time or funds needed to complete the move.

“Plans as far as the courthouse annex are so preliminary that they don’t have any of that information yet,” said Hall County public information officer Katie Crumley.

Sheriff Gerald Couch noted in his budget requests for the 2016 fiscal year for funding for additional personnel and security equipment with the annex.

Lighting, heating, air conditioning and elevators are up to date in the annex, Forrester said, meaning the building will not need to be gutted.

“Now it’s just a matter of reconfiguring the space, getting it to flow, putting security doors where they need to be,” Forrester said.

The concern for security will be adding measures to secure the judges and separate them from juvenile offenders.


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