The former Custer Health office space, located on the second floor of the Morton County Courthouse, is being transformed into a new courtroom and related spaces thanks, in part, to a grant provided by the North Dakota Supreme Court.
The $1 million renovation project will result in a courtroom, conference rooms, a witness room, two judge’s chambers, a jury room, restrooms and storage, with work scheduled to be completed by May 2018.
The grant covers $705,000 of the total cost, with the remaining $300,000 to come from funds set aside in the 2018 county budget.
“We are very grateful for the generous funding we received from the state Supreme Court for this much-needed courtroom space,” said Cody Schulz, county commission chairman. “This space will allow us to accommodate our growing judicial needs, while enhancing safety for jurors, judges and all parties.”
Currently, the courthouse has four courtrooms, one jury room and two judge’s chambers.
The fifth courtroom is needed, Schulz said, because of the nearly 30 percent increase in the county's caseload over the past 10 years.
Case filings went from 3,140 in 2015 to 3,575 in 2016. To date, 2017 statistics indicate a 4 percent increase in case filings over 2016.
Dakota Access Pipeline protests from August 2016 to February 2017 resulted in 761 arrests, contributing to some of the growth in 2016 and 2017, said Maxine Herr, county public information officer but total case filings also were on the rise in years prior.