Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Judges address upgrades to Carlton County Courthouse


October 18, 2018

Chief Judge Sally Tarnowski leading a group of local judges, some lawyers and law administrative staff addressed the Committee of the Whole meeting on October 2 regarding the needs of the court system at the Carlton County Courthouse.

Judge Tarnowski commented, “The courthouse judicial areas are cramped and have an inefficient use of space. There is little security for jury deliberation with the judicial entrance only through public accessed areas.”

She went on to say, “The Carlton Courthouse is the only one in the 6th Judicial District that does not have a courtroom for each presiding judge. Two courtrooms can make it possible to have two jury trials going on at one time. Limited space creates a long, clogged court docket, causing the resolution of contested cases to be postponed.”

“The need for 2.6 judges assigned to Carlton has been determined since 2012,” she explained. “Yet, there is not enough courtroom space to handle the load. Private attorneys and public defenders must meet their clients in stairwells with little confidentiality. Public defenders have offices in the same area as the judges and that also creates confidentiality issues. As a back drop to all of this, contentious cases are on the rise.”

2016 was marked with the start of electronic filing. Currently there are 13 court employees. Drug Court is being held in the old County Commissioners Boardroom. During deliberations, the hallway holds the overflow of families and friends concerned about the cases being heard. Emotions can run high. Comments have been made by county office staff that there are times the staff wonders if it is safe enough to go to the restroom.

“The County Building Committee has been looking for solutions to the upgrade of the jail,” said Commissioner Dick Brenner. “We are looking at a number of cost effective spaces to alleviate the crowding in the Courthouse. We need a little time.”

Brenner paused and then asked, “If the Board makes the investment to expand the Courthouse judicial space will a third judge be assigned to the Carlton Courthouse?” No commitment came from Chief Judge Tarnowski.


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