New Stanislaus Courthouse Aims for 2023 Debut

By Lisa Kopochinski

MODESTO, Calif. — If things stay on track, the new Stanislaus Superior Courthouse in downtown Modesto could be completed and open by late spring 2023.

This project is in the architectural design-working drawings phase which is scheduled to be completed in December 2019 by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP. Kitchell CEM is the construction manage on this project, and McCarthy Building Company is the Construction Management at Risk.

With the $279 million project moving forward as planned, Court Chief Executive Officer Hugh Swift recently told the Modesto Bee, “We’re still on schedule and not aware of anything that might take us off track.”

Originally, the cost of the new courthouse project was $262 million. However, this $17 million increase is the result of an adjustment for inflation. Funding for this project was initially authorized in 2010.

“California capital outlay projects, especially complicated projects, such as courthouses, can take several years from the initial funding budget request to the commencement of construction,” explains Judicial Council Spokesperson Blaine Corren.

The new 300,000 square foot courthouse—to be located in a lot along H Street, between Ninth and 10th streets—will have no fewer than 27 courtrooms. The new building will replace scattered court facilities that include the Modesto main courthouse on 11th and I streets.

Besides bringing together various services and inherently bolstering efficiency, direly needed security improvements will be incorporated, including enhanced entrance screening and separate hallways for staff and members of the public, as well as those in custody. There will also be a relatively spacious holding area for defendants.

Currently, the Superior Court of Stanislaus County provides services to county residents at the Modesto Courthouse and Hall of Records and from leased facilities in downtown Modesto, all of which have proven to have “deficiencies,” according to the California Courts website.

Included in the move will be three other facilities—Traffic Court on Floyd Avenue; Civil Court, located in the Merrill Lynch building on Tenth Street; and the court building on Starr Avenue, which is in Turlock. The latter handles small claims and unlawful detainer cases.

Officials say that by essentially consolidating court services from the four facilities into one building, efficiency will increase.

“It would definitely be a big undertaking to move all staff from four facilities to into one building,” says Swift.

“We haven’t gotten to that point, in terms of a relocation plan, but we want to minimize any inconvenience to the public and to our justice partners.”

When staff move into the new courthouse in 2023, only 22 of the 27 courtroom will be finished. Swift says the remaining five courtroom will be empty until the court receives state funding to add more judges to occupy those rooms.

Swift told the Modesto Bee that two courtrooms in Juvenile Court—which is on Blue Gum Avenue in Modesto—will not be moved to the new courthouse. He did add that local court officials are working with state lawmaker and the Judicial Council to acquire more funding so that the Juvenile Court can be moved into the new building in four years.