By Barbara Harrington
It looks like something one would see in a magazine or on television.
That is circuit clerk Judy Butler’s assessment of the courtroom renovations at the Monroe County Courthouse.
“It has majestic look to me that it didn’t have before,” Butler said. “The courtroom has been restored to a large degree, opening up the balcony. It changes the whole look of the courtroom.”
Problems with sound and lighting had plagued the courtroom since she began working in the circuit clerk’s office. Being able to use heat and air during court sessions is a big thing for Butler. Before getting a new system as part of the renovation, she said they couldn’t have heat and air because of the noise.
After renovations began last May, Butler had to travel to the Senator Thad Cochran Bankruptcy Building across town for court.
“Bankruptcy has been wonderful to us,” Butler said. “Everybody there has been so kind to accommodate us. We really appreciate their willingness to let us use their place.
“We’ve been excited about the renovation since day one.” She said she was most excited about the grants the county received to fund the project.
Her deputy clerks lost their offices during that time, too, and were housed in two rented mobile homes across the street from the Monroe County Courthouse, one for them and one for storage. They are all glad to be back home now that the renovations are complete.
“I am very excited to have all my ‘children’ back home with me,” Butler said. “I think everybody is glad to be home. As nice as bankruptcy was, it’s not like being home, where we have everything we need.
“Charles Eaves (the contractor) and his family are to be commended. It was a big undertaking for him. I hope they leave here able to look back with pride at the work they have done. Many times it’s hard to work in an office with construction workers in the building. They have been very accommodating.”
The entire layout has changed in the courtroom. Before, when someone came into the courtroom on the east side, the audience sat to the left along the south wall, and now the seats face the east, below the balcony, which Butler said has been enclosed the entire 30 years she has worked at the courthouse. Unless it becomes necessary, there is no plan to use the balcony during court sessions. The offices of the clerk will be along the west wall of the second floor. Also on the second floor are the judge’s chambers, the jury room, two witness rooms, Butler’s office and a detention room. The DA’s office will be on the third floor.
Butler said the courtroom will have more seating capacity than before, and that with upholstered pews and being able to utilize the heating and cooling system, the overall comfort of the courtroom should be greatly improved.
“It really has an elegant look about it,” Butler said of the courtroom. “I think the people of Monroe County will be really proud when they walk in.”