Blame Crumbling Courthouse On County Commission Inaction


You don’t need the Oracle of Delphi to tell you what’s happening to the Broward County Courthouse. 

It’s falling apart.

It was largely closed Monday because another leaking pipe. The fact that the courthouse is still being used is a disgrace.

This is another one you can blame on the do-nothing Broward County Commission.

You can blame every one of them, except maybe Commissioners Stacy Ritter and Ken Keechl.  They have only been on the commission two years. 

The rest of the procrastinating commissioners have been unable to get a new courthouse built for years.

Every one of them is guilty — Commissioners Ilene Lieberman, Kristin Jacobs, Sue Gunzburger, John Rodstrom, Diana Wasserman-Rubin, Josephus Eggelletion and Lois Wexler.

One wanted it here.  Another wanted it there.  And none of them had the leadership abilities to form a consensus.

Now times are bad and there is no money.

The current courthouse was cobbled together from an older courthouse built in the 1950s.  It has been renovated at least five times 1960, 1962, 1970, 1972 and an extensive expansion with the construction of the north wing in the 1980s.

A generation of commissioners continued to foolishly throw money at it. 

It reminds me to someone who keeps patching a rusting Yugo.  It can be done, but it doesn’t make sense.  

Despite all the money, the place is a mess.  Thirty years ago when I worked out of there covering the courts for The Fort Lauderdale News, it was already a dump.

The elevators broke down almost every day.  They still do.

Rats ran through the media room. I’m told the building is still crawling with rats

Pipes leaked and bathrooms were often flooded.  It is worse now, as Monday’s leak illustrated.

It was heavily damaged in Hurricane Wilma three years ago and that storm wasn’t even The Big One. 

If The Big One hits, the courthouse is a goner. Even without a hurricane, it is on the verge of a total breakdown.

What does it mean to you, the law abiding citizen who never visits the building?

If the courthouse is forced to close, expect long delays on everything from divorces and small claims to murder trials. 

There could be security problems, since any temporary courthouse would not be near the jail. Some of South Florida’s most dangerous prisoners would have to be transported through our streets.

More taxpayer money would be wasted county commissioners are good at that if temporary space for the courts was rented while the existing courthouse is patched together again.

Commissioners know all this. Yet they can’t seem to do anything.

There has been this committee and that committee. There has been hours of meandering discussions another thing commissioners are good at.

A few years ago, commissioners put a bond issue on the ballot for a new courthouse.  But they overreached, combining the courthouse with everything but the kitchen sink at a cost of $450 million.

Voters rebelled against that huge figure.

Now commissioners have missed the boat.  A recession is here and they have to cut, cut, cut.

No money for anything, much less a courthouse.

All we can do is hope that no big hurricane hits.  All we can do is hope there is no major structural or equipment failure at the courthouse.

All we can do is pray the courthouse lasts longer than the current county commission.


6 Responses to “Blame Crumbling Courthouse On County Commission Inaction”

  1. Beth The Bounty Hunter says:

    It’s really a darn shame. Possibly records incriminating murders etc., will be lost and they will not be able to go to trial. The County Commission voted to spruce up their present headquarters. The old courthouse is decrepid and the beaufiful add on just does not match. I’ve had my home flooded and this morning when the indicated the courthouse would be closed for one day, I know that is not possible AND stink and mold. It will be uninhabitable.

  2. William Riley says:

    The courthouse situation is clearly a disgrace. Trials scheduled this week are now delayed indefinitely because of the water main break. How much longer should we put of with this? In the end, the county commission is to blame because they are in charge of the building. We don’t care if it is the fault of current or former commissioners. The current commissioners must FIX IT NOW.

  3. stewie griffin says:

    Please….don’t put another dime into that dump.
    It is a money pit.
    The building should have been blown up years ago out of shear mercy.
    Perhaps the taxpayers who hate lawyers think that this is a movement the provide a cushy environment for lawyers. Well, if you think that, you are wrong.
    Build an ugly, but functioning, practical, safe new courthouse.
    Thin about the waste of resources everytime a storm or pipe knocks out the building.
    After the last hurricane knocked it out for a couple of weeks millions of dollars were lost directly and indirectly in our community by the closure.
    The rats are so big they move furniture.
    For god sakes man, help us.

  4. Mike Taylor says:

    Judge Pedro DiJols was on AM 1470 WWNN this morning stating that a category 2 hurricane would take out the ninth and tenth story of the courthouse. I agree with DiJols, it was a long time coming but the building is on its last legs. I guess DiJols is happy to have a courtroom in the new building.

  5. Boots says:

    I can’t believe OSHA hasn’t deemed the courthouse unfit for humans. The rats are not only huge, but also extraordinarily bold. The staff in one office has been smart enough to secure their documents in plastic bins each night, because they got tired of removing rat excrement from the papers each morning. If they try to eat lunch in their office, the rats come out and make a run for their food. It’s like some third world country. It’s a hallmark of how bad the economy really is – low wage clerical workers will put up with mold, rats, and dirt to keep a job with benefits. The Workers Comp claims are going to break the county, before this is all over. Nobody should have to work in such unsanitary surroundings.

  6. Lawyer with a memory says:

    Buddy, your memory if somewhat flawed if you want to blame commissioners for inaction on the courthouse. There was a courthouse bond on the ballot in 2006. It was THE VOTERS who said no to any major repair or building of new courthouse.

    FROM BUDDY: What you remember is true. However, the $450 million bond issue was much too large. Commissioners knew it wouldn’t pass and told me as much. They made little or no effort to campaign for its passage. The courthouse had been falling apart for decades due to commission inaction when the bond issue was proposed half heartedly in 2006.