Friday, July 10, 2009

New PA Judicial Center Open for Occupancy

The newly-constructed Pennsylvania Judicial Center, located in the Capitol complex in Harrisburg, finally is receiving its new occupants.

According to a news report entitled "Judicial Center in Harrisburg built to last a lifetime" by Jan Murphy, published in The Patriot-News on December 27, 2008, the PJC was expected to be completed by April, 2009, after nearly three years in construction.

Construction began in 2006 on the 425,000-square-foot complex. It connects a five-story building at the west end that houses courtrooms and judges' chambers, with a nine-story office structure on the east.

The 15 employees who work for the judicial conduct board are expected to be the first to move into the building in June. Others will take up occupancy over the subsequent three months, he said. The Commonwealth Court will hold its first sessions there in September.

The center is built to accommodate more than 500 employees. It will bring together staff that are spread over a dozen locations in and outside the Capitol complex.
I watched weekly over the past few years as the PJC grew from skeleton to shell to shelter to shrine. I noted its construction progress twice in prior blog postings. See: PA EE&F Law Blog postings "PA Judicial Center Under Construction" (10/31/08) and "New PA Judicial Center Under Construction" (05/09/07).

A month ago, I saw its interior lights lit during business hours, and, while walking by, I peeked inside.
For two views of its interior, see pictures of its lobby and courtroom posted by a contractor, McClure Company. For views of its exterior, see the PJC web page of the Pennsylvania Department of General Services.

Since mid-June, the PJC has been receiving occupants in staged moves. Today, I received notice that "the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania will move to the Pennsylvania Judicial Center" effective August 3, 2009. "Filings should be directed to the Court's new address" after that date, at its new address, 601 Commonwealth Avenue.

The moving schedule for court offices, boards, and agencies was posted on the web in a list of Pennsylvania Judicial Center Occupants (PDF, 2 pages), which listed the occupant, main office telephone, relocation date/timeframe, and new mailing address:
Continuing Legal Education Board
Thursday, June 11 - Friday, June 12
Pennsylvania Judicial Center
601 Commonwealth Ave., Suite 3400
PO Box 62495
Harrisburg, PA 17106-2495

Court of Judicial Discipline
Tuesday, June 16
Pennsylvania Judicial Center
601 Commonwealth Ave., Suite 5500
PO Box 62595
Harrisburg, PA 17106-2595

Client Security
Thursday, July 9
Pennsylvania Judicial Center
601 Commonwealth Ave., Suite 5400
PO Box 62585
Harrisburg, PA 17106-2585

Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts
Thursday, July 9 - Friday, July 10
Pennsylvania Judicial Center
601 Commonwealth Ave., Suite 1500
PO Box 61260
Harrisburg, PA 17106-1260

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
Monday, July 20 - Friday, August 14
Pennsylvania Judicial Center
601 Commonwealth Ave.
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0901

Board of Law Examiners
Tuesday, September 15 - Wednesday, September 16
Pennsylvania Judicial Center
601 Commonwealth Ave., Suite 3600
PO Box 62535
Harrisburg, PA 17106-2535
Thrilled as I am, as a lawyer and local resident, about such a consolidation of court functions in a new, state-of-the-art building in the Capitol City, there is one aspect of sadness regarding the center's opening.

In October, 2003, when Governor Edward Rendell considered releasing funds for construction of the PJC, his action was urged by the vision of the new Supreme Court Chief Justice, Ralph J. Cappy, who had advocated, among others, for such a center. See: "Pennsylvania's newest Chief Justice to take on modernization of state courts" by Marylynne Pitz, published October 05, 2003, by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Consolidating the state courts' functions could happen if Gov. Ed Rendell releases the funds that would pay for the design and construction of a $123 million judicial center in Harrisburg. The money was set aside in the 2001-2002 budget. The state judicial center would have about 400,000 square feet and house about 400 employees. Vitteta, a Philadelphia-based architectural firm, was chosen for the project in January by the state Department of General Services.

The state judicial center would consolidate numerous court offices spread out over the state, allowing for the termination of office leases. * * *
Sadly, after retiring from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in January, 2008, Ralph J. Cappy died unexpectedly at his Green Tree home on May 1, 2009 at age 65. See: "Ralph J. Cappy, Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice, dies at 65" (05/09), posted by; "Retired Supreme Court Justice Cappy dead at 65" (05/02/09) published by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review; and "Obituary: Ralph J. Cappy / Retired Pennsylvania chief justice" (05/03/09) published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

He died one month before the new state occupants began arriving in the PJC.

When I enter that building sometime in the future, I will look for his name to be listed, among others, on a plaque prominently displayed in its foyer, as a testament to their vision.