At Reed Hatch's sentencing last week, Judge Peter Cahill handed down a verdict of another kind. He looked out from his bench at the courtroom for the Superior Court and saw that half of those in attendance were standing in the cramped courtroom.
He shared his embarrassment and his belief that the court facilities are inadequate and unacceptable.
"It's really a disgrace," he said.
We agree and it's time that something be done. (Read "Cramped courts, jails pose safety, privacy concerns" published on Friday, Sept. 15, 2006.)
When we decided to do an editorial this week about the state of our court facilities and the need for our county supervisors to take action, we began the research in our own archives.
We quickly found that this is not a new issue and not a new call to arms -- by us or by Judge Cahill. On Sept. 5, 2003, the Payson Roundup wrote an editorial that described a crowded courtroom with frail chairs and what looked like card tables in the center of the room -- the prosecution and defense tables.
The editorial shared the same kind of embarrassment Cahill spoke of this past week -- that our current facilities do not possess the dignity fitting of a Superior Court.
Sadly, that 2003 opinion stands true today.
When seating is limited, participation in our justice system is limited. If a witness has to stand for hours waiting to testify, that person is less likely to attend a trial and a criminal is more likely to go free.
When security is an issue, a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence will be apprehensive about showing up to court.
The 2003 editorial quoted Judge Cahill telling the audience in his courtroom that the people of northern Gila County deserve a better facility.
How much longer must Cahill rattle his saber and how many more times must the Roundup point its editorial finger at the problem before something happens?
Do we wait until the cramped quarters lead to a violent confrontation? Do we wait until such a confrontation leads to a lawsuit against the county?
The population of northern Gila County has increased and with it, crime has increased.
Last week, Superior Court Judge Robert Duber sent a letter to the Star Valley Council proposing that the county could rent space in a municipal facility built by Star Valley.
This is perhaps the most affordable solution.
For convenience, we would prefer to see a new facility in Payson, where the majority of population of northern Gila County resides.
Either way, the court facilities must be moved from their current location in order to expand. We have real estate to sell in order to cover the costs of new land.
We realize money is tight, but our leadership needs to begin looking outside of its current budget -- whether it be approaching the taxpayers for a bond initiative, looking for grant money or looking at funds available through the Department of Homeland Security.
The residents of northern Gila County need to put pressure on the electorate of the Town of Payson, the Town of Star Valley and the county supervisors.
And we must not let up until this problem has been resolved.