Judges, attorneys speak on need for more space in the Hall County Courthouse

Four Hall County judges took the stand Tuesday, but not in court, instead it was at the Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 6:46 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Four Hall County judges took the stand Tuesday, but not in court, instead it was at the Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting, with one message, we need more space inside the court house.

The meeting opened with a presentation from Davis Designs of their conceptualization that would expand on the current courthouse.

The need for space could be much greater soon, as Senator Ray Aguilar has a bill in the legislature that would give Hall County another judge. As of now there wouldn’t be much space to put that new judge, and that’s what District Court Judge Andrew Butler stressed to the board.

“I like the old building, I’ve always said that, I enjoy old buildings,” Bulter said. “Next year it’s 120 years old has it’s life expectance ran, I don’t know. I don’t envy the position you’re in with this situation, but something needs to happen.”

Defense attorney, Andrew D. Hanquist, said the county needs to take some time do the project properly.

“You have the opportunity to piecemeal this together, put a band aid on it, and hope it works for the next 5, 10 years,” Hanquist said. “We can take this as an opportunity to do it right, take the time. I feel this is being rushed, with not a lot of input from players in the game, I’m glad that we have this session, but it’s not enough. You need to give time and consideration to all the different view points on this, because this is going to be a cornerstone of Hall County for years.”

The board also heard from some from the county attorney’s office, who expressed the need for more space. Deputy County Attorney Matthew Boyle said the courthouse needs a boost in technology as well.

“To go in front of a jury of members of our community, and have to put on a case, on a wing and a prayer and hope that the technology works,” Boyle said. “Doing a murder case at the tail end of last year and a significant part of the evidence was video evidence and we were crossing out fingers that the technology would work.”

Boyle’s colleague, Sarah Hinrichs, said getting more space in the courthouse would be safer for all, using the case of Tyler Manka from 2022 as an example.

“Victims and witnesses are often, in my opinion, put in jeopardy of having to be in such close contact of the individuals that they are there to testify against,” Hinrichs said. “We had a case in very recent history, involving Mr. Manka, where witnesses were actually threatened by the dependent, while he was in the custody of corrections officers and they were simply trying to get him to the elevator and out of the building.”

The only action taken by the board during Tuesday’s meeting was to ask Davis Designs for a new contract that would allow for them to also make plans for a whole new build. Then in two weeks they’ll re-visit matter.