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San Luis court gets new technology in remodeling
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — At one time, the San Luis Municipal Court laid down the law in the same chambers where the city council met, where athletic clubs had their meetings and where couples tied the knot.
About five years ago, the court got the place to itself when most other municipal offices relocated to a newly built City Hall on the north side of the city.
But the Municipal Court still needed remodeling. It got its face-lift in a nearly yearlong construction project that was formally concluded recently in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Occupying the original City Hall building at 767 N. 1st Ave., the building is equipped with a new computer system that simplifies document retrieval, video-conferencing equipment that allows prisoners to participate in hearings from their jail cells, plus multiple layers of security.
“We can say with a lot of pride that the technology that we have compares with that of whatever court in the state,” said Municipal Judge Rosendo Morales Jr., who cut the ribbon to inaugurate the court in a ceremony attended by area public officials and some judges. “The difference is like day and night between this and the building that was constructed many years ago.”
The building — built and opened as City Hall in 1982, just three years after San Luis incorporated as city — was remodeled at a cost of nearly $190,000 with money from fines and other court revenues.
Aside from new computers and video-conferencing equipment, the court has a 700-square-foot lobby with bathrooms, and security cameras inside and outside the building. One weapons detector has been installed, and a second one is soon to follow.
Morales, who has presided as municipal judge since 1998, well remembers the conditions under which the court used to operate.
“There wasn't anything. I didn't have a computer. I had an office of about 8 (feet) by 8 (feet). There was an antiquated, incomplete set of law books. Now I have access from my computer to any case I want to see, as well as to the backgrounds of the people.”
Manuel Figueroa, today Somerton's municipal judge, was Morales' predecessor in San Luis, where he served as judge for nine years.
“The building was definitely multi-use,” Figueroa recalled. “It was used by the council and for the court, it was used for little league baseball meetings, for the (city) water department, for a library, and it was even rented for weddings.
“It was difficult to administer justice there. When it was time to leave, I had to take (court documents) with me. I couldn't leave anything there, because later children or any person from the public would come in.”
Citing one anecdote, Figueroa recalled that city officials used to say that even the furniture was considered dangerous because the chairs could be used as weapons by people called into court.
Figueroa said courts typically rank low in priority on the list of services local governments provide the public.
“The last thing officials think about are the courts. They say, ‘Let's invest first in the fire or the police departments.' We are not a priority, so it makes me happy that the San Luis City Council has allowed the city to invest in the court.”