In the first couple of weeks after moving into their new federal courthouse, U.S. District Judges Sam Sparks and Lee Yeakel haven’t yet hung the artwork in their offices, but they are already hearing cases.
On Dec. 3, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin moved into a seven-story downtown Austin courthouse with 10 judge’s chambers and eight courtrooms. Lawyers trying cases in its courtrooms will find modern architecture, more open space, numerous windows, natural light and state-of-the-art technology.
“I think it’s terrific. It’s beautiful. It looks like Frank Lloyd Wright designed it. . . . So many federal courthouses are fairly staid, and I think this one reflects much more of Austin,” says Raymond White, partner in McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore in Austin. White represents a defendant in a trial that starts next week in Yeakel’s court.
Yeakel says, “The way people try lawsuits has changed, so we have a lot of electronic gizmos that are of assistance to lawyers and juries and the court.”
Sparks adds, “It’s all electronically run. All the jurors have the electronic pads. The exhibits will not be on pieces of paper or photographs, they will be on CDs.”
Sparks and Yeakel both say having more courtrooms means they can bring visiting judges to help tame their courts’ busy dockets; and the building is more secure because criminal defendants will not enter public areas when transported to court proceedings.
-- Angela Morris