A new heating system is now in place and old window air conditioning units have been removed and replaced with central air. The ceilings, adorned with the type of rosettes that Gilbert also used on the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., have been restored.
The ornate ceilings and walls made the renovation job trickier, as some 5,000 miles of wiring was installed in trenches dug into the floors. The marble hallways have been cleared of temporary cubicles once used by staffers, and four rooms with conference tables have been set aside for mediation sessions.
New, recessed lighting, some of it buried in the rosettes, has been added to brighten the halls and courtrooms of what was sometimes a gloomy, cave-like building. Handicapped access has been improved and public restrooms have been upgraded. A few elevators have been sacrificed to serve as the conduits for the electrical and other systems.
Second Circuit Executive Karen Milton said last week that the building's ancient systems were falling apart and had to be replacedall "without touching the ceilings or the walls."
"The fact was, we couldn't use large amounts of the building because spaces leaked, there was no heating. We were running a modern court system on 1930s wiring," Milton said. "If this building had been fully occupied, we would have had brownouts."
In addition to regular courtrooms for the Southern District, there are three secure courtrooms on the building's first, third and fifth floors that face three internal courtyards.
Southern District Executive Edward Friedland said the larger courtrooms will be used for multi-defendant trials, trials requiring extra security, and special proceedings such as immigration swearing-in ceremonies.
Courtrooms with external windows have "bomb blast" curtains. Bullet-proof glass walls in the lobby separate the metal detectors and security screening lines from the main lobby.
"Certainly in terms of the building itself, with the new security features that have been added we have a much better level of security for the lawyers, the jurors, the employees and the public," Friedland said.
The restored Marshall courthouse will house as many as 21 district and magistrate judges. An arraignment court has been added on the building's third floor and an adjunct clerk's office for the Southern District is nearly complete.
There are now 60 active, senior and magistrate judges in the Southern District. While four judgesRichard Owen, Leonard Sand, Lawrence McKenna and Barbara Jonesare retiring this year, there already are five vacancies, with four nominees for those vacancies before the U.S. Senate.