PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) – After seven months of closures and case disruptions, the Palmer Courthouse is now fully reopened. The Alaska Court System celebrated the reopening of all 10 courtrooms in a small rededication ceremony on Tuesday evening.
Court staff and judicial officers joined Chief Justice Daniel Winfree as he cut a ceremonial ribbon outside the clerk’s office.
“I salute all the Palmer judicial officers for their support and commitment to serving the Mat-Su Valley citizens,” Winfree said. “They had no offices for months, working together in courtrooms with each other, conducting remote hearings, and doing their desk work in difficult circumstances. But as always, none of that could have been accomplished without the dedicated, hardworking staff who are so very flexible in their schedules.”
The courthouse closed to the public in January after a severe windstorm ripped through the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, causing mass power outages that led to pipes bursting and subsequent flooding. Around 75,000 gallons of water flooded multiple courtrooms and offices inside the building, which needed repairs and mold remediation after the water was pumped out.
The damage caused significant delays in criminal proceedings, as criminal trials are required to be held in person under the Sixth Amendment right to confrontation.
“We were still conducting hearings, but they were all telephonic,” Palmer District Court Judge Tom Jamgochian said. “We didn’t have to close, but we didn’t have offices for most of this time. We were down from 10 courtrooms to three for most of the time.”
According to a press release from the Alaska Court System, despite the setback from the water damage, the Palmer court was still able to hold 19,389 hearings from Jan. 1 through July 31 of this year.
After the rededication ceremony, the public was given brief tours through the newly reopened courtrooms.
“People have some of their best days in this courthouse when they get married, and they have adoption ceremonies,” Judge Jamgochian said. “They also have some unfortunate days as well, but it’s the public’s building, and we felt it was important that we communicate to the public they are welcome back.”
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