Southampton Circuit Court bench trials moving to Hunterdale

Published 2:50 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Southampton Circuit Court operations will be more consolidated during the ongoing courthouse renovations than originally expected according to the latest update from Southampton County Administrator Michael W. Johnson.

Michael W. Johnson

As renovations at the Southampton County Courthouse are expected to continue until April 2023, the original plan had been for jury trials and single-defendant, day-long trials to be held at the modified Hunterdale Elementary School facility, while bench trial dockets would be heard at either Isle of Wight Circuit Court or Suffolk Circuit Court.

In a written project update provided to the Southampton County Board of Supervisors for its Feb. 22 meeting, Johnson stated that “with some relatively modest security fencing work in the secure holding cell area, (Southampton Circuit Court Chief Judge Carl Edward) Eason (Jr.) has indicated to me that the circuit court will not only conduct all jury trials at Hunterdale but all bench trials as well.”

Johnson noted that this should provide substantial operational savings in not having to transport trial participants to Isle of Wight County or Suffolk and also not having to provide court security in those remote locations. 

“I hope to wrap this up in the next few weeks,” he stated.

Johnson explained to supervisors that things are going well in the early stages of work at the Southampton County Courthouse.

His written report noted that asbestos abatement at the courthouse was expected to conclude later that week.

“I’m sure most of you all have observed that about a third of the demolition is now complete — the records room and what used to be the circuit court clerk’s office,” he said during the Feb. 22 meeting. “The next piece that is slated for demolition is the connector, which was the lobby on the old courthouse between the 1834 building and the 1960s addition. That should be down by the end of this week, and then they will work on the 1996 addition around back, taking that off as well.”

He said that once the demolition is complete, workers will begin with the underground utility work. 

So far, the overall renovation project is a little bit behind schedule, he said.

“Hopefully they’ll be able to make it up as the weather improves throughout spring, but so far, still on budget and relatively close on schedule,” he said.

His written update noted that for the project, the county had “processed the contractor’s first three pay applications and paid them roughly $1.5 million thus far.”