Courthouse space disagreements overshadow jury restroom decision

CONTRIBUTED GRAPHIC The new restroom approved by the supervisors Wednesday will be installed between the two jury deliberation rooms at the top left corner of the courthouse on the fourth floor. The new restroom will go in the purple space below the red space indicating the original jury restroom.

After weeks of discussion on the issue, the Marshall County Board of Supervisors voted to add a second restroom to the jury deliberation area of the Marshall County Courthouse, but that was only a small part of the discussion at Wednesday’s meeting.

The bigger issue at hand was the ongoing disagreement between judicial and legal officials and Marshall County leaders on space in the courthouse, which is being renovated after the 2018 tornado.

“You asked for data from us … when we started this process in December. We provided you the data. You ignored our data,” said District Court Judge John Haney to supervisors Bill Patten and Dave Thompson. Board Chairman Steve Salasek was not present Wednesday due to travel.

The county officials, as well as county Buildings and Grounds Director Lucas Baedke, said they took time to hear from members of the judiciary about the space they needed in the courthouse.

The only official decision made by the board Wednesday was to approve a second restroom to serve the two jury deliberation rooms on the fourth floor of the courthouse.

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS – Former state Sen. Larry McKibben voices his disagreement with the county supervisors on the issue of judicial space in the renovated courthouse.

Haney, as well as other members of the state judicial branch, have outlined complaints about county officials’ plans for the renovated courthouse.

He specifically said the current plan for four courtrooms and one multipurpose room will not provide adequate space for non-jury legal proceedings, including juvenile court and magistrate court cases.

Supervisor Bill Patten pointed to Iowa Bar Association data showing a downward trend in the number of jury trials from 2009 to 2017 as one reason the four designated courtrooms and the multipurpose room would be adequate.

“The future is going to be different,” Patten said. “It’s different for farming, it’s different for shipping, it’s different for selling shoes. It’s going to be different, also, for the court system.”

Attorney Laura Eilers, of Peglow, O’Hare and See PLC, said the current courthouse layout provides one conference room on the fifth floor and one on the fourth floor. She said that is not adequate to guarantee attorney-client confidentiality.

Baedke said he and officials from architectural firm OPN Inc. had heard those concerns and originally built in more conference rooms on those floors. However, some of those rooms were eliminated in later layout plans.

Former state Sen. Larry McKibben, an attorney at Moore, McKibben, Goodman and Lorenz LLP, was also critical of the county officials at Wednesday’s meeting. He directly brought politics into his discussion.

“I haven’t made any of the other meetings, but I’ve had some of my Republican friends who said I needed to come today, so I come today as a Republican and a strong supporter of the folks who are speaking to us today,” McKibben said. “I absolutely believe this game was put together well before we came today. Nothing was going to happen.”

He said the $25,000 the board voted to spend on adding another restroom for jurors – in response to a request from judicial system officials – was a small concession.

McKibben made several references to his own Republican Party affiliation, which he shares with Patten and Thompson. Thompson asked McKibben to stop making such references.

“When we get in office we represent everybody, so drop it,” Thompson said.

McKibben said he was disappointed in the supervisors. Patten and Thompson said they were disappointed in McKibben.

“We’ve had 30 meetings or more and if you weren’t there hearing both sides, then you don’t have an opinion this morning,” Patten said to McKibben.

Floor-by-floor look

Spaces planned for use by the state judicial system are currently planned for the top three floors of the five-floor courthouse. Here’s a look at what each of those three floors will include.

Third floor:

• Multipurpose room (can act as courtroom, among other roles)

• Marshall County Auditor’s offices

• Lobby area

• Public restrooms

Fourth floor:

• Two jury deliberation rooms and adjacent restrooms

• Two courtrooms, including the grand courtroom

• Clerk of District Court’s office

• Lobby space near rotunda

• Two conference spaces

• Public restrooms

Fifth floor:

• Two courtrooms

• Office space

• Lobby area

• Conference room

• Restrooms

The next Marshall County Board of Supervisors meeting is set for 9:05 a.m. Sept. 17 on the second floor of the Great Western Bank building, 11 N. First Ave.


Contact Adam Sodders at 641-753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com