Fall River celebrates opening of new justice center

Issue November 2010 By Tricia M. Oliver

The ceremonial opening of the new Fall River Justice Center took place Sept. 30 and was attended by state officials and dignitaries from the Fall River area. Community members, judges, attorneys, court staff and others from Bristol County and beyond took part in the afternoon celebration.

"Fall River has a rich history of culture and Congress," said Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert A. Mulligan, who served as the master of ceremonies and described the new justice center as a "magnificent structure."

The program's featured speakers included Gov. Deval Patrick, Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Robert J. Cordy, Sen. Joan M. Menard, Rep. Patricia Haddad, MBA President Denise Squillante, Fall River Mayor William A. Flanagan, Bristol County Superior Court Clerk Magistrate Marc J. Santos and commissioner of the state's Division of Capital Asset Management, David Perini.

Patrick thanked Perini for his "marvelous job of leading quietly" the planning and construction project. He stressed the $85 million courthouse's role in rebuilding a sense of community, describing the event as an opportunity not "just to celebrate an extraordinary building," but to appreciate the "spirit of what it represents."

After breaking ground in October 2007, the Fall River Justice Center opened its doors three months ago. The new structure is situated in the heart of downtown Fall River, overlooking historic Battleship Cove. "Today we reinforce the Massachusetts Trial Court's commitment to its urban centers," said Mulligan.

Cordy spoke of the new structure as belonging to the people. He also emphasized the importance of preserving and maintaining the new building now that it has been erected -- an obligation that "falls on us as guardians of justice."

The Bristol County Superior Court and the Fall River District Court began operations in the new five-story building in July. The courthouse features nine courtrooms, modern information technology and digital recording capability, handicapped accessibility, secure detention areas, a jury pool and the District Attorney's Office. The courthouse also houses a law library.

The Justice Center is the first courthouse constructed by the commonwealth to incorporate LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards into all phases of the project - site development, design, material utilization, practices and equipment.

"Now that the dust is settled and offices are occupied, it is only fitting that we celebrate its opening," said Menard, who represents the First Bristol and Plymouth District and lives in Fall River.

Squillante, a Fall River native, reminisced about the area in which the courthouse was constructed. "As a child, I walked along South Main Street, as many of you did, to the shops, the library down the street and to get lime rickey sodas," she said.

"This court will play a vital role to the rejuvenation of this center of the community," added Squillante.