Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bonus Columbus Day Featurette: This Courthouse Is Grand

Live from the Ted Stevens Trial, on Extended Weekend Break

Washington, D.C.--

Motions are flying around tonight in this case as the lawyers stay on nighttime patrol. The prosecution wants to get access to e-mails held at the law firm of Ted Stevens’ wife Catherine. The defense wants the judge to throw out all of VECO’s records on work done on the Stevens house.

Enough about paper—let’s talk marble and wood.

The trial of Ted Stevens is being held in the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse. Compared to your average hall of justice around the country, this place is like the Bellagio on steroids.

The courthouse is big—almost almost one million square feet. To put this in perspective, that’s about six times the size of your average Costco warehouse.

The original high-ceilinged facility was opened in 1952, and it is quite fine. But it is the annex, only three years old, that is the showstopper.

Fancy wood paneling abounds, and it still looks brand-new. There is a soaring giant room in the middle of the building that sits under a six-floor circular staircase that takes you up to the courtrooms.

The courtroom itself has more TVs than a sports bar, which allows everybody to see the evidence. The TV set in front of the witness has cool touch-screen technology that allows the person testifying to draw circles and lines on photographs for the jury.

Security prevents photographs from being taken inside, but trust me—this courthouse is amazing.

One observer pointed out that this luxurious building provides some slight compensation for the federal judges who work here and complain frequently about their salaries. Those federal judges—like U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who presides over the Stevens trial—make $169,300 a year, and haven’t had a raise in 10 years. Particularly since 9-11, this observer noted, many very nice federal facilities have been built around the United States.

It’s not quite the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial, but rest reassured that the interior architecture will not disappoint if you do end up in this building during your D.C. tour.

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