Colorful brushstrokes adorn the entryway walls of the newly built federal courthouse in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, paying homage to the nearby Susquehanna River. The expansive mural is visible from the outside through large full-height windows, which provide natural light throughout the building.
“Our new Middle District of Pennsylvania courthouse is a modern, light-filled architectural gem that should serve the court, attorneys, litigants, and the public with style and efficiency for decades,” said Chief Judge Matthew W. Brann.
On Monday, the public opening of the Sylvia H. Rambo U.S. Courthouse marked the conclusion of a decades-long effort to work with the General Services Administration (GSA) to secure funding to build a safer space for those visiting the federal court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
The 243,000-square-foot courthouse, located at the corner of Sixth and Reily streets, replaces the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, where shackled detainees shared the same building entrance as court visitors and could end up riding the elevator with the judge or jurors involved in their case.
“The Reagan building wasn’t designed with court operations in mind and had some pretty glaring security flaws,” said Clerk of Court Peter J. Welsh. “We put the safety of our visitors, judges, and staff at the forefront when designing the new space.”
The new courthouse has restricted corridors and elevators to allow secure, efficient movement around the building of prisoners, judges, judicial staff, and visitors.
In late 2015, Congress appropriated $948 million to fund eight new courthouse projects, including Harrisburg, which is the most Congress has funded in recent decades.
“While Congress’s approval of these projects may not be unprecedented, it is certainly unusual in modern times,” said Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick, chair of the Judicial Conference’s Space and Facilities Committee. “This investment is essential to providing access and safety to all — jurors, lawyers, court employees, parties to a case, and the public – so that they may focus on the administration of justice in a fitting setting. Everyone in the Judiciary, and the public at large, should be grateful to Congress, the General Services Administration, and the Judiciary for coming together to tackle the often urgent needs these new courthouse projects address.”
The new facility includes eight courtrooms, 11 judges’ chambers and space for the bankruptcy bench, probation and pretrial services offices, U.S. marshal’s office, and U.S. attorney’s office as well as GSA and U.S. Trustees. It also offers state of the art audio-video technology.
A display in the new courthouse details the legal career of Judge Sylvia H. Rambo, who was appointed to the federal bench in 1979, as part of a historic class of women federal judges.
“The Court is pleased that our new courthouse bears the name of our friend and colleague, the Honorable Sylvia H. Rambo, Senior United States District Judge, who has labored for the past thirty years to see this project to completion,” Brann said.
“Even as I stand here today, it feels unreal,” Rambo said during the courthouse naming ceremony last June. “As one of four children raised by a struggling German immigrant mother, I could never have imagined the life that has been bestowed on me, or on my name.”
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