Judge could block courthouse opening

Overdue, over-budget facility set to open late next month

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Chief Circuit Judge Donald Moran said he may block the opening of the new Duval County courthouse after the mayor's recent move to cut $1 million in new furniture for the facility's hearing rooms and judges' chambers.

Moran, along with the state attorney's office, met with the City Council courthouse oversight committee late Monday afternoon to talk about the developments of the overdue and over-budget courthouse, which is scheduled to open May 29.

Moran said he was disappointed in Mayor Alvin Brown's decision and said Brown's staff is somewhat dysfunctional, as far as the courthouse goes.

"I think I stated it accurately when I said I've had difficulty from the beginning with this administration," Moran said at the meeting. "They've held peace at committee meetings without our knowledge where it requires a user to be there. They cut out audio-visual, microphones for the courtrooms, all kinds of things, which are required by law. The ADA requires it."

Moran said Brown's staff has no idea what's involved and that their plan will make the courthouse non-functional.

"There's been a terrible lack of cooperation and communication, and it's unfortunate," Moran said. "I've dealt with Mayor (John) Peyton and (Mayor John) Delaney on this project, and while they may have been difficult, at least there was some communication. So there's been a lack of communication leading to a lack of cooperation."

"We are working on that issue," Brown said earlier Monday. "We are trying to make sure we live within our means and protect the taxpayers' dollars. I think our goal is that we are fair."

Brown said he didn't have anything to say to Moran.

"I think it's self-explanatory, making sure we do what is fair and right," he said. "I have great confidence in this system. I think it's all going to work out."

State Attorney Angela Corey has been upset with the city and lack of work on the state attorney's offices at the complex. She backs Moran and said something has to be done.

"We are concerned about having a fully functioning courthouse," Corey said. "Our primary concern is making sure our building gets under way so our lawyers can function. Here we are at Victims' Rights Week, and the most important thing is our office can be in court every day to represent those victims of crime."

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