When Space Is Tight but Justice Is Paramount: Inside Augusta County's Jury Trials
Written by: Sam Orlando
STAUNTON, VIRGINIA - As legal dramas play out across the nation, the public's attention has been increasingly turned toward the court system. While new courthouses boast modern amenities, there are challenges unique to historic settings like Augusta County Circuit Court, particularly when it comes to jury trials. With construction underway for a new courthouse slated to open in late 2025, how does the current historic building manage jury trials effectively?
Historic Constraints, Modern Solutions
The Augusta County Circuit Court in Staunton has been serving the local community for generations. The building exudes history but comes with space constraints that make administering jury trials a challenge. But according to R. Steven Landes, Clerk of the Augusta County Circuit Court, the court has developed methods to keep juries free from public influence, despite its physical limitations.
"Jurors enter via a separate entrance and go directly to the courtroom to be questioned by the judge and attorneys involved in a trial," Landes says. "They are then taken to the jury room just off of the courtroom until the trial begins." Once inside the courthouse, staff members provide minimal interaction, effectively keeping the jurors isolated from any external influence.
Jury Rooms and Soundproofing
Landes also addressed concerns about soundproofing in the jury rooms, particularly in a building where hallway conversations can get loud. "Individuals in the hallways are asked to keep their conversations down, and if necessary, Court Security Staff do ask people to take their conversations downstairs or outside," he adds. There's no specific requirement for soundproofing in court building standards, but this will be less of an issue in the new courthouse, which will have adequate separation between courtrooms and jury rooms.
New Courthouse to Address Old Challenges
The forthcoming Augusta County Courthouse in Verona promises modern solutions to these age-old challenges. The building will feature two Circuit Courtrooms with separate jury rooms, and a separate jury assembly area. "The same protocols as I have mentioned above would apply as well in the new building," assures Landes.
A Community's Anticipation
As the United States navigates its way through high-profile cases and questions of court administration, Augusta County is looking toward the future.
The new courthouse will provide a setting where justice can be administered more efficiently, without the charming yet restrictive limitations of its historic predecessor.
For more updates on the new Augusta County Courthouse, stay tuned to Breaking Through News.