Miami-Dade Children's Courthouse To Consolidate 17 Agencies

, Daily Business Review

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The new Miami-Dade Children's Courthouse
The new Miami-Dade Children's Courthouse

It's a weekday afternoon in Miami-Dade's dilapidated juvenile courthouse.

The building nestled between the juvenile detention center and JB Tires resembles more of an abandoned high school than one where a young drug-addicted mother promises a judge she will make it through treatment this time.

The rooms are courtrooms in name only. Judges sit sightly above agency representatives, defendants, family members and court personnel squeezed around conference tables.

Outside the courtroom is a dingy waiting area where lawyers confer with clients and relatives amid throngs waiting for their cases to be called. Babies howl, and unsupervised children run free.

"It's woefully inadequate, and it has been for many, many years," said Chief Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Bertila Soto.

Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman, a national leader in juvenile law and a longtime Miami-Dade veteran, added, "It's about how we treat children and impoverished families in the community, and when you walk into this building you get the feeling that we don't real care. And it's been that way for a long time."

This depressing scene will be gone next year. Crews are working on the landscaping for the new colorful Miami-Dade Children's Courthouse.

The $140 million building at 155 NW Third St. north of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center will be dedicated Feb. 6 in honor of two judges renowned for juvenile justice in South Florida: William E. Gladstone and Seymore Gelber.

The new courthouse won't be operational until 2015. It finally will put under one roof family, delinquency, abuse and neglect cases, many of which affect juveniles.

"We have been moving toward a unified family court, but we don't have the space to do it," said Circuit Judge Orlando Prescott, administrative judge in the juvenile division.

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