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New Courthouse in Nashville Maintains Classical Look with Enhanced Security

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Striking folds of white robes, composed of thousands of pieces of glass, adorn the ceiling of the rotunda in the newly built Fred D. Thompson U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building in Nashville.

“The mosaic personifies equal justice under the law for all,” said U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger, who led her district’s courthouse project. “Nashville is known as the Athens of the South and the courthouse artwork pays homage to that name with its Greco-Roman style.”

Tomorrow, a dedication ceremony at the new courthouse will mark the conclusion of a nearly 25-year effort to work with the General Services Administration (GSA) to secure funding to build a safer and more welcoming space for those visiting the federal court in the Middle District of Tennessee.

The new courthouse replaces the Estes Kefauver Federal Building & Courthouse Annex, where shackled detainees shared the same building entrance as court visitors and could end up riding the elevator with the judge or jurors involved in their case.

“The Kefauver Federal Building wasn’t designed to properly accommodate the needs of a court,” said Chief Deputy Clerk of Court Vicki Kinkade. “There weren’t private hallways or secured underground parking for judges, and rust-colored water has flowed through the building in recent years.”

The new courthouse has secure underground parking for judges. Restricted corridors allow secure, efficient movement around the building of prisoners, judges, judicial staff, and visitors.

In late 2015, Congress appropriated $948 million to fund eight new courthouse projects, including Nashville, which is the most Congress has funded in recent decades. Three of the new federal courthouses opened last year, and four more are opening this year.

“While Congress’s approval of these projects may not be unprecedented, it is certainly unusual in modern times,” said Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick, chair of the Judicial Conference’s Space and Facilities Committee. “This investment is essential to providing access and safety to all — jurors, lawyers, court employees, parties to a case, and the public – so that they may focus on the administration of justice in a fitting setting. Everyone in the Judiciary, and the public at large, should be grateful to Congress, the General Services Administration, and the Judiciary for coming together to tackle the often urgent needs these new courthouse projects address.”

The 275,000-square-foot courthouse, which sits in downtown Nashville, features an abundance of natural light. The new facility includes eight courtrooms, 11 judges’ chambers and space for the district’s probation and pretrial services offices, U.S. marshal’s office, and U.S. attorney’s office as well as GSA and U.S. Senate offices.

Trauger also noted how the building’s large plaza has quickly become a gathering place for people exercising their First Amendment right to assembly.

“It’s nice to see that our new space provides people with a safe space to exercise their many constitutional rights not only inside the courthouse, but outside as well.”

Related Topics: Courthouses

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