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tc_court120hTompkins County CourthouseLegislature Chair Martha Robertson told Legislators the New York State Court System, which has called for the Legislature to vacate its chambers by the first of the year to make way for a Supreme Courtroom, has now told the County it needs all the space currently occupied by the Legislature, calling for all Legislature operations, not simply the Chambers, to move from the County Courthouse. 

A message from Court Clerk Paula Nichols received last week states, “it is imperative to our court operations to occupy the total space currently being occupied by the Legislative offices and staff.  We therefore request the total space to be available to the Court effective January 1, 2012 as previously requested.”

Supreme Court Judge Robert Mulvey, administrative judge for the 6th Judicial District, had first proposed a plan for the Courts to occupy the Chambers with only minimal renovations and to contribute to the cost of further work as tenant improvements. In light of severe State budget cuts, the County then was told the County must fund the Chamber renovation. robertson120TC Legislature Chair Martha RobertsonNeed for the offices, Robertson said, is not in the spirit of what Judge Mulvey had stated earlier.  Under the New York State Court Facilities Act, counties must provide adequate space to the State court system, a requirement that affects continued County use of Courthouse space and that has already forced County purchase of new space for its Office for the Aging.

The Courts have cited the need for security for a second building when court is in session in the Old Courthouse, which some on the Legislature have questioned as potentially a matter of convenience instead of absolute need.  Legislator Mike Lane noted that it would be a lot less expensive for county taxpayers if the County could pay for security instead, an option Administrator Joe Mareane said has not been supported by the Courts in earlier discussions.  Legislators questioned whether any recourse exists. 

Chair Robertson remarked, “We have been trying to be responsive, modest, and accommodating (in working with the Courts), and this is the response.”  Robertson said staff will compile information on courtroom use and security needs, as discussions proceed, as well as cost of improvements.

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