Judge Peter Weinstein Seeks Changes To New Fort Lauderdale Courthouse
Chief Broward Circuit Judge Peter Weinstein said Thursday that he is lobbying the County Commission for money to build a large courtroom on an empty floor of the main courthouse under construction in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
In his annual State of the Circuit report to the Broward County Bar Association's young lawyers section, Weinstein said, "We need a very large courtroom like they have in Miami."
He noted critics have called it a ceremonial hall, but Weinstein insisted there is a need for a large room for judicial meetings and complex business litigation trials.
The 17th floor of the 20-story tower was planned as a shell until future expansion, Weinstein explained.
"We're having big cases. Judge (Jeffrey) Streitfeld had some significant cases. If they went to trial, we were going to have to lease the BB&T Center to hear them, but he coerced them into settling," Weinstein said in what may have been a slight exaggeration intended to elicit the laughter he got.
"But seriously, we would have a very significant problem, so I've been pushing the county very hard to come up with the money to build a large courtroom," the judge told his audience.
The $328 million courthouse, parking garage and retail complex project was approved in 2010 by the county, which is paying for it through a 30-year sales tax increase.
Weinstein then announced a parking garage under construction on the southeast corner Andrews Avenue and Southeast Sixth Street will be open to the public in 90 days. The garage was designed to complement the new courthouse and is directly south of the tower.
However, Weinstein noted the county is looking for maximum revenue.
"I have implored them at every meeting to not charge $8 an hour," the judge said, noting that's what the county currently charges users of the garage east of the existing courthouse. "I think it's confiscatory."