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Chief justice praises Becker for 'courts wing'

Becker County was able to show off its latest jewel - the new addition to the courthouse - to a group where some members will see the greatest use out of it.

The Minnesota Judicial Council, the state judiciary's policy-making body that is composed of judges from around the state, honored the Becker County Board of Commissioners on Thursday for its efforts in turning a plan into reality.

"Because of the foresight of the board and the citizens of Becker County, the courts will be able to conduct proceedings efficiently and with the decorum necessary to function," said Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson.

Becker County Administrator Brian Berg said the new addition was a sacrifice for county residents.

"This county is not a rich county," he said. "It was a challenge financially and the people of the county stepped forward."

Minnesota Seventh District Chief Judge Michael Kirk said the judicial council holds meetings outstate from time to time to honor communities that support the judicial system by building new courthouses.

"We recognize the efforts of local governments in providing facilities for the court system," Kirk said.

Citizens see the courthouse as a symbol of justice and society, he said. Quoting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Magnuson said that courthouses are society's meeting grounds and cultural halls.

With three new state-of-the-art courtrooms, new offices for court administration and staff, and jury assembly rooms, the courthouse addition provides enough room to work.

Magnuson said that a working court system needs that or else it can fail.

"Our system of courts is based on the rule of law," Magnuson said. "It's the envy of the world. But it cannot function without adequate facilities."

Berg said that Seventh District Judge Joseph Evans, whose chambers are in the new addition, pointed out issues with the old facilities. It helped spur the move to a new courthouse.

"He (Evans) expressed his concern that justice was being affected," Berg said. "We were really strapped for space judicially and it was affecting the fair administration of justice."

Evans, who is chambered out of the Becker County courthouse, said that the new addition is a big deal in terms of what the facility adds to the courts.

"It represents a commitment by the board and citizens," Evans said.

New technologies that allow the court to be less reliant on paper make the courts more efficient as well,

"We are just pleased as can be (with this,)" Evans said. "It makes it easier to present evidence to judges and juries."

The court hasn't held a jury trial in the new addition yet. But it's coming, with a jury trial scheduled for Tuesday.

Evans doesn't want to speculate too much on a potential juror's reaction to the new facilities. However, he thinks new technologies being implemented will pay off.

"I think they (jurors) will be appreciative," Evans said.