Taxpayers are paying $1.41 million a year to rent a new state-of-the-art federal courthouse in downtown Newport News, Va., that has no resident judges and sits nearly empty almost two-thirds of the time, reports the Newport News Daily Press. The new courthouse — which the government rents for $117,700 a month — leaks. Rainwater sometimes has to be caught by buckets in a courtroom. Despite earlier promises, nine federal judges from Norfolk usually don’t trek to Newport News to hear cases.
The more modern courthouse in Newport News, which opened in 2008 with all the latest features, goes mostly to waste. Local attorneys complain that they often have to set aside entire mornings or afternoons to trek to Norfolk for 20-minute hearings. Out of about 21 business days in a standard month, the Newport News courtrooms are guaranteed to be used only seven days: five for misdemeanor hearings from incidents on military bases and federal property and probation violations, and two for bankruptcy cases. A grand jury meets on three of the misdemeanor days to consider indictments. U.S. Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott, a member of the Judiciary Committee who fought for the new courthouse after the old one closed over security concerns following 9/11, said, “no, it’s not (living up to its promise). It’s broken, and it’s obviously something we need to work on.”