The SLO County Bar Association presented a tour of the Paso Robles Courthouse on July 13. The tour was an MCLE event with box lunches for attendees. Judge Burke, Judge Picquet, and court CEO Susan Matherly displayed some of the courtroom "bells and whistles" in Department 2 (carbon copy of Department 1), with Julie Vierra providing the courtroom clerk's perspective. Those in attendance were impressed with the "electronic whiteboard," which Judge Picquet anticipates may quiet trial attorney squabbles over opposing counsel marking up exhibits. The whiteboard allows drawings to be capture electronically and saved on the clerk's computer. The image on the whiteboard can then be marked without permanently altering a party's exhibit. The courtroom ELMO system can be used to display not only documents but objects (keys were used for demonstration) that would be difficult to photocopy and display to jurors. Although Department 1 is set up for video conferencing, Judge Burke has not yet had the opportunity to use it for hearing purposes. He expressed hope that within the next few years, attorneys will be able to make video appearances for Paso hearings.
After making the courtroom presentation and allowing everyone to finish lunch, the judges took everyone a tour of the rest of the courthouse. Although Judge Picquet swore us to secrecy )knowing that some of the other SLO County judges haven't seen them yet), the chambers at the courthouse seem big enough to use for three-on-three basketball. However, it was pointed out that chambers provide a "view" of the 10th Street carwash. Adjacent to chambers is a bailiff post that can be fully secured if necessary. Moving downstairs, the judges pointed out the court file viewing room that can be observed from the clerk's office to ensure that court documents don't go missing. We also got a view of the staff area and the offices that host courthouse IT and provide room for court research attorneys who occasionally leave their Palm Street quarters.
In a post-tour question and answer session, the judges addressed future judicial assignments at the new courthouse. Assignments seem somewhat up in the air for the civil department but Judge Burke seems to feel confident that he will be a fixture at the courthouse for the foreseeable future to provide continuity to those involved in family proceedings. Judge Burke expressed his view that the state is unlikely to see another new courthouse project for years, emphasizing again how fortunate we are to have this new facility right here in Paso.