Building serves as view of future
The courtroom includes video monitors and an adjustable witness stand.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A unique architectural design and state-of-the-art equipment are features of the new federal building and U.S. Courthouse that opened this month.
The four-story, $22 million building houses the U.S. Bankruptcy Court as well of offices of the Internal Revenue Service, General Services Administration, United States marshal's office and a suite of congressional offices.
The formal dedication will be Oct. 9.
The bankruptcy courtroom, located on the third floor, features audio and visual equipment to make the facility accessible to the handicapped.
Large video screens are situated at each of the two attorney tables, the judge's bench, the witness stand and in the jury box. The screens can be used to show court documents, videotapes or other exhibits, said Sherri Dahl, a law clerk for Judge William T. Bodoh.
The deck of the witness stand is also adjustable. Normally, witnesses will have to step up into it, but it can be lowered so it's flush with the floor to allow wheelchair access.
The deck can also be raised so that if the judge is wheelchair-bound, he or she can be raised to get behind the bench.
The attorney's podium is similarly adjustable to be comfortable for taller people or for those in wheelchairs.
"This is sort of a blueprint for what all courtrooms are going to be like in the future," Dahl said.
Room for training
There is also a computer training room where court staff and local lawyers will be schooled in the electronic filing of bankruptcy documents, which is to begin Oct. 1, said Richard Lucarell, deputy clerk in charge of the bankruptcy court.
"We never had a place to do this in the old building because we never had the space," Lucarell said. He was referring to the Thomas D. Lambros Courthouse some three blocks north, which is where the bankruptcy court was formerly located.
The court's facilities will also include a hearing room where the U.S. trustee's office will conduct creditor hearings in bankruptcy cases.
In the past, those hearings were held at Youngstown State University because of a lack of space in the Lambros building.
There is also office space for the local congressional representative. That space sits vacant, awaiting a tenant, since former congressman James A. Traficant Jr. has been imprisoned.
Claire Maluso, economic development specialist for the congressional office, said Traficant was instrumental in helping with the building's design.
The exterior of the building features a unique, rounded front designed by nationally known Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York.
According to information from Stern, the rounded facade provides a panoramic view of the "three distinct but interdependent components" of the city's downtown.
To the south are the remains of the city's once-thriving steel industry, and to the north is the city's cultural center, including Youngstown State University and the Butler Museum of American Art.
Between the two is the business and civic core of the city, featuring commercial offices and government buildings.
A pair of black, metal smokestack sculptures adorns a public plaza area at the front of the courthouse as part of the GSA's "Art In Architecture" program.
"Some people really like that, and some people really dislike it," Lucarell said.