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New Courthouse Raises The Bar In Contra Costa County

PITTSBURG (KCBS/BCN) - Officials planned to celebrate the opening of a new courthouse in downtown Pittsburg on Friday. The facility was built to replace the overcrowded Pittsburg-Delta Courthouse, plus improve access to the judicial system in east Contra Costa County.

KCBS' Bob Melrose Reports:

The new seven-courtroom facility was the first courthouse built by the state Administrative Office of the Courts, and designed to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

"It also reuses storm water, there's a living roof above the jury assembly building that will help keep the building cool and also present a garden lookout for people who are using the courthouse," described Teresa Ruano, spokeswoman for the state Administrative Office of the Courts.

The $64.7 million building was also the first courthouse in California to be built entirely with funds from court user fees and assessments rather than the state's general fund.

"When people have a moving violation, civil trial fees, criminal trial fees, a portion of those is set aside for courthouse construction," explained Ruano.

Construction on the project began in April 2009 and was completed on time and on budget.

"We've actually built a space that I think not only will function well for the court, because it is adequately sized to the jury assembly needs of that area," Ruano said. "But also we set it apart from the rest of the building so that when the court is not using it, it can also be used by the community as a community gathering space."

Once the new courthouse was declared officially up and running, the old one, which was built in 1952, would be demolished.

The new facility was scheduled to open to the public Monday.

It was named in honor of retired Contra Costa County Superior Court judge Richard E. Arnason.

Judge Arnason, 89, was born on a wheat and dairy farm in Hansel, North Dakota. He moved to California with his family in 1943 after his father got a job at the shipyards in Oakland, according to reports.

Arnason graduated from University of California, Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law in 1945 and joined a law firm in Antioch in 1949, Ruano said.

He was appointed to the California Superior Court in 1963 and served as presiding judge twice in 1968 and 1978, Ruano said.

He retired from the bench in 1995, but has continued to serve as an appointed judge on many cases, Ruano said.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

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