FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County Superior Court Chief Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley knows his courtroom. He’s been on the bench for the last 17 years, and looking out, he sees the jurors, the lawyers and the defendants and plaintiffs.
But something was just not right when he visited the new courthouse, being constructed across the street from the 1976-built courthouse.
“I had seen and approved the plan drawings, meaning the horizontal layout,” Bagley said. “I didn’t know there was going to be an issue with the vertical dimensions until I got there.
“I was surprised the bench was lower than my bench at the 1976 courthouse.”
So Bagley measured the vertical dimensions of his existing courthouse bench (25 inches) and the new courthouse bench (21 inches).
The four-inch difference is significant, Bagley said.
“If someone goes into a courtroom, they need to know that something important is about to happen,” Bagley said. “Those dimensions need to be correct and the judge needs to be at the proper height to see what is going on in the courtroom.”
The new courthouse was modeled after one built in Cobb County, said Doug Shaw, director of Municipal Studio at Wakefield Beasley and Associates.
After hearing of Bagley’s concerns, Shaw said he would make accommodations to the ceilings in the courtroom that would allow the judge’s bench to be raised to its proper height.
The new courthouse will house state, criminal and superior courts and the existing courthouse will house magistrate and probate courts.
“We’ve got some ADA concerns about one piece to add ramps to the courthouse,” Shaw said, “but generally, I think we can accomplish most of the goals.”