I like courthouses. I also like libraries and art museums, but this post is about courthouses. In my career as a jury/trial consultant, I have spent countless days, hours, and minutes in courthouses, from Alaska to Florida. When I am working with attorneys during the jury selection process in trials, the courthouse and its courtrooms are my “office away from office.” Having had ample opportunity to sit on the uncomfortable benches located in most courthouse hallways while waiting for attorneys, judges, and jurors, I have often wondered why I am so comfortable in courthouses. Unlike most people I know, who view courthouses as dreary, institutionalized places they avoid at all costs, I look forward to going to courthouses, both when working with a client and when accompanying David on his photographic quests. (Magnus published a Courthouses of Florida calendar for 20 years and David has a Courthouses of Florida website that showcases his beautiful photos.) At the time of this writing, my most recent jury selection was in Pinellas County, Florida. The jury selection process was completed late, after most of the courthouse staff had gone home for the evening, leaving me to wander, alone, through the normally bustling hallways. That’s when it came to me: The reason I like courthouses and have always been comfortable inside them is that my dad, whom I adored, worked in the Lee County, Florida, courthouse. Dad was the Lee County Parks and Recreation Director and, for most of my childhood, his office was on the first floor of the County Administration Building, attached to the courthouse. I loved going to visit my dad at the courthouse. I loved being one of only two people in the courthouse at night, after closing, when Dad had to stop by his office for a few minutes at the request of a County Commissioner. I loved the linoleum floors, especially after they were polished. What fun it was to run down the long halls! When I enter a courthouse these days, to perform my job on behalf of my clients, I feel as if I am at home; I know, approximately, where most things are located; I know to introduce myself to the bailiffs, above everyone else; and I know I am, like my dad, doing important work that can only be done in one place, the courthouse. Yes, I do like courthouses!
I don’t have the long history with courthouses like Melissa does, though, now that I think about it, my Dad had an office in what was then the Federal Courthouse in Jacksonville for a time when I was very young. But, I have enjoyed becoming familiar with them as a photographer. Since 1996, I have been photographing Florida courthouses for our calendar, which was first published in 1998. And, though we ended the calendar series, for now, I have continued to photograph them. These are mostly Florida courthouses and the images can be seen on Magnus’ website, in our marketing materials, and on www.courthousesofflorida.com where prints are available for purchase. Having photographed about 150 courthouses, I have come to appreciate the functionality and beauty of the architecture in many of these buildings. Many of these buildings are a center focal point in the town square. Unfortunately, a few are poor reflections on their community in both their design and upkeep, but these are few. I know many people, attorneys mostly, complain about some of them, the Miami-Dade main courthouse, for example, but a close look at the design details inside and out reflect an attention to details no longer seen. The new Broward County courthouse is attractive in a modern way, and it shows an attention to function that makes the attorneys’ job easier in technology terms. I have especially enjoyed photographing the interiors of older courthouses – those from the 1920s and 1930s (or even before). It is hard to image running a high tech trial in a courtroom built in the 1800s, but the couple of old courtrooms still in use in Florida (Nassau and Osceola counties) sure are beautiful. My Mom has told me she thinks of courthouses as ominous – bad places – where she hoped never to go. I suspect many members of the public think this. But, they are fascinating workplaces for those who go there daily, and for attorneys whose work is done there. Perhaps they are not perfect, but considering the variety of work accomplished therein, the requirements for such a building, especially a modern one, are complex. And, good things also happen (weddings) and people get justice, so, perhaps they should not seem to be so ominous. That has been a satisfying aspect of photographing them – to show what many people rarely see.