Denver Bar Association
April 2006
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Denver Justice Center Design

by Christine Nierenz

In response to the "What’s in Your ‘Dream’ Justice Center?" article last month, (March 2006, p. 13), The Docket interviewed Mayor John Hickenlooper and E.C. Architects, LLP to unveil the new design for the Denver Justice Center.

"We’ve incorporated a number of ideas generated from public input, and think the taxpayers will

Lyle van der Roche, E.C. Architects

be pleasantly surprised by what their new justice center has to offer," stated Lyle van der Roche, spokesperson for E.C. Architects.

"It really is a dream design, incorporating modern architecture while also paying tribute to more conventional courtroom designs," Mayor Hickenlooper added.

The voter-approved Denver Justice Center will be located in Denver’s Civic Center, and includes a courthouse, detention center, and accessible, affordable parking. Special features of the new design include:

Acknowledgment of Court Participants: To help people easily locate the courthouse, a landmark rotating sign will be posted outside. In addition to stating the time and temperature, the sign will have an up-to-the minute tab of the number of individuals served, in a tribute to modern architecture, and inspired by McDonald’s.

Cost-Efficient Courtrooms: The new courtroom designs will make Denver a forerunner in addressing the budget crisis of the judicial system. Courtrooms no longer will be numbered ("Courtroom 1," etc.); rather, they will be renamed based on
sponsorships. An exciting number of corporations have taken advantage of this opportunity, and civil litigants can look forward to having their cases heard in the "Allstate: You’re in Good Hands Courtroom," while divorce cases will be heard in "Prozac Courtroom." Plans are pending for the "Capitol One: What’s in Your Wallet? Courtroom."

Features of an "All-Encompassing Community": In an effort to make the courthouse a friendlier, gentler place, the design will be more community-oriented. Thus, there will be a floor devoted to less
litigation-oriented business, including a rehabilitation center and a massage parlor. Plans also are underway to begin a "Dating after Divorce" service, where newly-divorced singles can meet and mingle.

The architects made sure the model of the Denver Justice Center would stand out on the Denver skyline.

Streamline Design for Criminal Cases: To meet the increasing demand of the criminal justice system, the new courthouse will have a section devoted entirely to criminal justice cases. Keeping with the fast-food inspiration, a nearby McDonald’s will be renovated, and a "drive-thru" system instituted. There will be five windows, allowing criminal defendants and their attorneys to remain in their vehicles throughout the entire process. To start off the process, the first window will offer defendants and attorneys a cup of coffee and a sticky bun (although there is still debate as to what company will run this window — Starbucks or a local business). Defendants will be advised of their rights at the second window, and the third window will house a Deputy District Attorney for plea bargaining. Defendants can enter their pleas at a fourth window, and, finally, the fifth window will handle collections and payment of court costs.

Drive-thru Wedding Chapel: To ease the burden of Colorado couples who must travel to Las Vegas to find a drive-thru chapel, the new justice center will offer a drive-thru wedding chapel, which will be open 24 hours a day. While there won’t be an Elvis impersonator, for just a few extra bucks, the happy couple can be imparted with flowing prerecorded poetry, courtesy of Justice Hobbs.

New Parking Design: In order to present a "friendlier" image to the public, the new justice center will offer valet parking. To balance the exorbitant costs of traditional valet services, work-release inmates will provide the parking, rendering a new parking garage unnecessary, as the inmates will park your car on a street somewhere.

"Friendly Features" of Courtrooms: To make courtrooms more hospitable to all, judges will now have "theme music" played as they enter the courtroom. This is much like the music played for at-bat Rockies players, although the judges might actually get people to stand when they enter. There also will be coffee kiosks in the back of all courtrooms, and juror seats will be replaced by La-Z-Boys. Finally, to keep tighter tabs on attorney courtroom conduct, the judge will have an "immediate eject" button that will launch disruptive attorneys out of the courtroom. The system to be installed is identical to eject-systems on jet fighter aircraft.

Gift Shop: To address juror boredom and to raise additional funds for the courts, jurors will be allowed to browse through the gift shop, which will offer items such as T-shirts with clever quotes such as, "I went to court and all I got was this lousy T-shirt" and "I went to court and had to buy this shirt because the other party took the shirt off my back." Additionally, a line of politically-correct greeting cards will be introduced, to help break awkward process-server moments, or simply to say, "Just thinking of you today/Will you pay your child support some day?"

Cost-Efficient Security: Long lines at the courthouse doors will soon be a thing of the past, as bulky and unsightly metal detectors will be replaced by a moat surrounding the justice center and a drawbridge.

With the many new and exciting features, the Denver Justice Center is sure to become a landmark in a landscape marked by ever increasing change in courthouse designs. However, future designs for justice centers are likely to be non-existent, as it is expected that the growing trend will be toward online justice. Defendants and litigants will log on to a site such as to view all pending cases. When the matter is set for a hearing or a trial, litigants will access a chat room where the case will be tried — justice from the luxury of one’s couch.

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