Riverside County breaks ground on new $75 million juvenile and family courthouse in Indio

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A rendering shows what the new Juvenile and Family Courthouse in Indio will look like when construction is complete in spring 2024.
A rendering shows what the new Juvenile and Family Courthouse in Indio will look like when construction is complete in spring 2024.

Riverside County officials broke ground Friday on a new $75 million Juvenile and Family Courthouse at 47-671 Oasis St. in Indio. The facility is expected to open by spring 2024.

The new Juvenile and Family Courthouse will have five courtrooms and occupy 53,255 square feet, with parking for about 150 cars. Its purpose is to consolidate all family and juvenile court functions in the desert region.

The new building will house two courtrooms that will move from the existing Juvenile Court on Oasis Street, which was built in 1955, and two courtrooms that will move from the family division at the Larson Justice Center, also on Oasis.

A fifth courtroom will allow the addition of one new judgeship. The transfer of two courtrooms from the Larson Justice Center will free up that space for more regular court activities, officials said.

"There is an existing courthouse in Indio," said Indio Mayor Waymond Fermon. "We do have the Larson Justice Center. What this is going to do is, it's going to absorb some of the overcrowding issues that we have there."

Because the county jail, existing juvenile facilities and social services are within the same area, Fermon said, the new court's location will facilitate how they work together.

Ahead of the groundbreaking, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, spoke about his work to secure $45 million in the 2018 state budget for the project. He also commended "the persistence and advocacy" of the Riverside County judicial branch and especially thanked Riverside County Superior Court Judge John M. Monterosso for helping bring the new courthouse to fruition.

"This new facility will provide increased courtroom and administration space, ease the accessibility of family services, and create an opportunity for a new judgeship in our region. Our attention must next be turned to filling judicial positions to better serve the growing needs of our community," Garcia said.

Of the space, Fermon — who has had a career as a corrections officer at Calipatria State Prison — said: "If (the new courthouse) is not big enough, then we're not doing our job."

He said he hoped resources available across the Coachella Valley, such as recreational activities and sports, in particular, could help prevent young people from ending up in legal trouble.

"As an elected, it's imperative on us to exhaust all those resources so people don't wind up in court," he said.

Monterosso officiated the groundbreaking ceremony. After thanking Denise Leonard for singing the national anthem and members of the American Legion Post 739 for the presentation of colors, Monterosso thanked Fermon for leading the Pledge of Allegiance before emphasizing how important this long-gestating project is to the Coachella Valley.

"This is a very special day for this valley," said Monterosso. "This is going to be a dedicated department for families, which is critically needed." The existing courthouse is in such bad shape that it has been deemed one of the worst courthouses in the state."

In his statement, Fermon emphasized the revitalization of downtown Indio and how the new Juvenile and Family Courthouse will help offer solutions to families while putting juvenile offenders back on the right path. The mayor ended his time by asking those who find themselves in front of a judge to consider the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: "Faith is taking the first steps even when you don't see the whole staircase."

The mayor then thanked everyone for supporting Indio's growth and making this improvement possible.

Other speakers included Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, Indio Councilmember Glenn Miller, Senior District Representative Kimberly Barraza, Principal Manager of the Judicial Council of California Jagan Singh, and Riverside County Superior Court Executive Officer Samuel Hamrick, Jr.

In closing, Monterosso left the crowd of about 100 with: "May this building be a welcoming place for all who come seeking justice, that when their business is done, no matter the outcome, they depart satisfied that they had their day in court and were treated fairly."

Later Friday, county officials were to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for another new court, the Menifee Justice Center, in the western part of the county.

Eliana Perez covers the eastern Coachella Valley, including the cities of Indio and Coachella. Reach her at eliana.perez@thedesertsun.com or on Twitter @ElianaPress.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Riverside County breaks ground on $75 million juvenile court in Indio

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