The new $119 million Durham County Courthouse opens this month on South Dillard Street in Durham. In addition to its location beside the jail, the 11-story building incorporates an array of new features, many focusing on efficient design and energy use. The building’s internal layout includes three separate areas of circulation - one for the public, one for courthouse staff, and a secured circulation area for transporting inmates. The only place that all three can converge is in one of its 20 courtrooms. Areas that will be frequented by the public, such as the Durham County Sheriff’s Office and traffic court, are in the lower floors of the building, while those that will receive less public traffic are located at higher levels.
In comparing the new courthouse to the county's old one, Chief District Court Judge Marcia Morey says they are “night and day.” She says that the most striking difference is that the new facility is “clean and beautiful,” and she hopes that it will bring a new attitude into the courtroom that will “boost our commitment to serve the public.”
The new courthouse will house the Durham County Sheriff’s Office, Clerk of Courts, District and Superior Courts, Public Defender’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, and Trial Court Administration. Magistrate judges, who handle civil cases, will also have their own small hearing rooms instead of having to conduct cases in their offices as they do now. Magistrate judges currently handle up to 170 cases a week. A new area for the jury to assemble includes a kitchen and personal lockers, and the entire building is outfitted with free wireless internet.
The new facility also includes many design features that County Engineer Glen Whisler hopes will earn it a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification by the US Green Building Council. Some of its energy efficient features include hundreds of south-facing windows that allow for natural light in courtrooms, a bicycle parking area, and a vegetated roof to absorb runoff. Operations in the new courthouse will be fully underway by February 18.