From the courthouse to the trailer. That's right folks, district court will no longer be held within the confines of the McKenzie County Courthouse, which is currently undergoing a remodel.
McKenzie County will now have "trailer court" for the next several months. But don't fret; it's only temporary - for approximately nine months that is.
According to Judge Robin Schmidt, UND Law School Class of '04, the impermanent courtroom is functional. She said nearly 60 of the 90 initial scheduled cases to be held in the trailer showed up last week and things still went well.
"I was a little worried at first, but everything ran smoothly," Schmidt said. County State's Attorney Jake Rodenbiker added that the process ran smoothly thanks to the "patience of the defendants and their counsel, and the extra assistance of the Clerk's and Sheriff 's offices."
Only about 20 people can fit in the courtroom audience at a time, while other people waiting to go before the jud ge have to sit in the four-benched waiting area. There is simply no room for extra people in the court room right now, Schmidt said.
Anyone not specifically scheduled to speak with her during court will be asked to wait outside, she added.
The jury, which is typically more than 10 individuals, has to meet in a small room behind the courtroom.In order for all of them to fit, desks and tables have to be pushed up against the walls so there is a meeting area. And there isn't even chairs for them to sit in.
Sometimes there are only six people on the jury, but sometimes there's a dozen or so people trying to cram into an itty-bitty room to discuss cases.
"While inside and out it may not be what one would expect of a court, that only goes for the physical structure," Rodenbiker said. "All the players in the court system are as committed as ever to achieving justice. Everyone on both sides of the criminal cases heard throughout this first week in the modular unit could tell due process remains constant in McKenzie County despite the temporary quarters."
On some occasions, bond hearings are held digitally - through an interactive TV conference. Judge Schmidt said she is thankful to have that equipment set up in the tempo rary courtroom as well since there are so many criminals jailed in other counties.
Courtroom furniture had to be cut down and pieced back together in order to fit it into the customized court trailer.
Once the new courthouse is complete, the courtroom will be the same size, but will feature new furnishings and an updated layout.
"There is never a dull moment here," Judge Schmidt said. "There are always changes and challenges, but I get to work with great people."