Huntsville to add a new municipal courtroom

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Thursday, the Huntsville City Council approved an architectural contract to renovate the city's court.

The contract between the City of Huntsville and NewSouth Architects for architectural services will cost the city $45,500.

It has been a long road to get to this place, though. The city council recently appointed two new judges.

"For some time, we recognized that we needed more than two full-time judges, so that's where the council decided to go ahead and add the third judge," John Hamilton, City Administrator, said regarding the decision.

The municipal court has also been the site of more than courtroom drama recently.

Disagreement extended outside the court when senior municipal judge, Sybil Cleveland, disputed with Mayor Tommy Battle about the presiding judge role. Cleveland said she was qualified for the job, and that Battle violated state law by not naming a presiding judge for the court one year after longtime presiding Municipal Court Judge Sonny Rodenhauser retired.

Battle later named a different presiding judge.

Now that is behind the city, creating another courtroom is a minor renovation.

"It involves taking down some walls, getting rid of some offices and things. But they'll have a third courtroom within the next few months," said Hamilton. "It will add some flexibility in terms of maybe doing more night court, or potentially weekend court. The presiding judge will work through what's the best way to schedule it."

He added that it can also help police, too.

"Having more flexibility in the way the court hearings are scheduled allows us to spend less overtime on police officers. It allows them to get in there with cases, and then back on the street. So while it makes scheduling better for citizens, it also makes it better for city government."

Hamilton said while the renovations are underway, the crews will do their best not to disrupt court. Some of the work will need to be done at night, he believes, or on the weekends.