Winston Churchill once said, "We shape our buildings and afterwards they shape us." This insight applies with special force to the buildings that house the judicial branch of government. A courthouse that is clean and in good repair promotes respect for the legal process. A courthouse that is dirty or dilapidated erodes public confidence and detracts from the dignity of the proceedings held there.

In 1997, the court system continued to make good progress in ensuring that its many courthouses across the State stand as symbols of a justice system worthy of trust and respect. Three major new facilities opened in New York City: the Queens County Criminal Court annex, the Bronx County Housing Court and the Queens County Civil/Housing Court. Each designed from the ground up to meet the demands of their high-volume caseloads, these spacious and comfortable new facilities have received rave reviews from court users and administrators alike. On Staten Island, a building formerly occupied by the City University was converted for use by the Commissioner of Jurors and back office operations, freeing up much needed space in the main Supreme Court facility. Five additional temporary Supreme Court parts were also opened in the Homeport Naval Facility.

Outside the City, 33 counties and 50 cities have now substantially implemented their Capital Plans, and many have provided new or substantially renovated facilities. Of special note were openings of state of the art courthouses for the City of Utica and Dutchess County Family Court. A joint city/county courthouse for the City of Batavia and Genesee County was also a much welcomed addition.

Future improvement projects are planned in Allegany, Wyoming, Erie and Westchester Counties. Erie's commitment includes a new Family Court building by the year 2000, with renovations to other county court facilities to follow. Westchester has plans for a $140 million program to renovate and expand the Daronco Courthouse, with financing and construction management to be provided by the State Dormitory Authority.

The physical condition of the pillars of justice gives insight into the state of the judiciary generally. And in 1997, their physical condition was definitely stronger.

The new Bronx Housing Court has lived up to what it was intended for. As a Court Officer, I'm seeing the changes of expression and attitude on Bronx litigants' faces as they enter the new courthouse. It's no longer the look of anger and frustration, but pride and respect for themselves and the court.

The courthouse was built expressly for that purpose. All litigants can now bring their complaints and try their cases in a dignified atmosphere that they so richly deserve.

Captain Frank R. Grillo, Jr.

Bronx Housing Court