KINGMAN - Technology installed into the new courthouse in Bullhead City is designed to help civil cases countywide well into the future.
Mohave County Division 1 Superior Court Judge Charles Gurtler said the Bullhead City facility has been designed for case-flow productivity and is being equipped with the latest technology.
"We worked with the architect, Paul Selberg, to simplify the flow of documents and that worked out very well," Gurtler said. "Everything just flows smoothly. This facility is designed to serve 10, 20, many years into the future."
Gurtler, who was elected to Division 1 in 2002 after spending eight years as judge pro tempore with the Juvenile Division, said he used his knowledge of the problems he encountered in the old facility as a basis for the new design.
"When we moved into the old building, we already had our file space at capacity," Gurtler said. "Our files were overflowing into areas that files should not be stored, like the jury room. Our file storage space in the new facility is designed for continued expansion and easy access. Our clerks are no longer in the justice court area, thus simplifying the process. In the old building the court reporter sat in the hallway. He now has his own area, which improves workflow as well as security."
Gurtler said the courtroom computer system is the showplace of the new facility. The lectern is now equipped with a computer as well as a document camera situated to the right. Any person giving a presentation in the courtroom to the judge and jury can place a document under the camera, which, he said, has automatic focus. The document would then appear on the judge's computer screen, the wall screen behind the witness box and any other monitors that are desired.
This setup allows attorneys the freedom to stay in one spot, Gurtler said.
"This system saves a lot of court time by not having counselors walking back and forth to show exhibits," he said. "All they have to do is put their graphic, list, map, plan or document of any kind under the doc-cam and it can be seen by all. It can be expanded because of small print. It can be enhanced, highlighted, arrows can be added and colors can be changed."
The courtroom is also equipped with a DVD and a VHS player at the lectern, where video evidence can be presented to the court, Gurtler said.
It also allows attorneys to hook up their personal laptops and do PowerPoint presentations. Gurtler said the system is designed to allow different software to be used and be able to use it without the constant update of courtroom software.
Gurtler said they are offering education for the attorneys to help them learn the new technology.
The jury room has also been improved as part of the expansion of the Bullhead City Courthouse.
"The jury room in the old court was right next to judge's chambers," Gurtler said. "Sometimes I had to leave chambers because I could hear what they were talking about through the thin walls. This new facility is well planned for security of everyone, including the jury. The jury room has its own bathrooms and a small kitchen."
Not far away from the jury room, there is a new, locked, evidence room. Only the court clerk has a key, Gurtler said, and is a secure, preferable method than the centralized evidence room in Kingman.
In Div. 1, Gurtler handles all of the civil cases filed in Bullhead City, 40 percent of the cases filed in Kingman, as well as the contested domestic relations cases filed in Lake Havasu City.
"We are seeing more and more cases all the time. The civil cases from Kingman are absolutely huge in numbers. Civil filings from all across the county are growing more each year than anything. And case complexity is increasing. With the growth in the county, medical malpractice cases and construction defect cases have grown tremendously. We have real estate cases, illegal subdivisions and tax foreclosures. We have big construction projects, new developments and more governmental requirements with all the new building. The complexity of the county has changed, and by the nature of the country, literally, growing up, the cases have likewise become more complex," Gurtler said.
Ground broke on the expansion project on Dec. 9. According to County Public Information Director Darryle Purcell, they are still doing a little bit of touchups here and there, but the project, for the most part, has been completed.