Courthouse Access Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes

November 17th and 18th, 2005
San Francisco, CA


November 17th (9:00 – 11:30)

Opening Remarks and Roll Call
Committee Co-Chair Sam Overton opened the meeting and took roll. He relayed best wishes from Co-Chair Eve Hill, who could not attend the meeting due to 25th anniversary celebrations being held by her organization, the Western Law Center for Disability Rights.

Introduction of New Committee Member and Substitute Representative
Nancy McNabb, who succeeded John Biechman as the representative for the National Fire Protection Association, introduced herself to the committee. She noted that Biechman will serve as her alternate. David Boyd, state court administrator in Iowa, was also introduced as the representative for Conference of State Court Administrators in the absence of Steven Hollon and alternate James Glessner, who were unable to attend due to judicial meetings.

Public Comment: Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
Several members from the public urged the committee to address issues of concern to people with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS). Comments on this topic were made by Michelle Miller of Safer Building, Connie Barker of the Environmental Health Network of California, Betty Kreeger, and Yorick Phoenix. Barker stressed the need for greater attention to indoor environmental quality and provided information on a signature program in California for designating “Cleaner Air” spaces in buildings and on a California specification (#1350) for improving indoor air quality. Miller outlined steps in remodeling or maintaining properties to improve access for people with MCS which addressed flooring materials and cleaning products, among others. Kreeger noted efforts that can be made to improve the quality of indoor air, such as minimizing the use of fragrances. Beth Stewart suggested that one of the subcommittees could address the issue and have a conference call with representatives from the MCS community. Cheryl Killam agreed to have the Courthouse Subcommittee, which she co-chairs, look into MCS issues. A member from the other two subcommittees (Maureen McCloskey for the Education and Outreach Subcommittee and Bob Schwartz for the Courtroom Subcommittee) volunteered to serve as liaisons to the Courthouse Subcommittee on this issue. Stephanie Vierra noted that the Whole Building Design Guide website has resources on MCS.

Approval of Minutes
The committee approved the minutes of its August meeting in Chicago.

Tour of the California Supreme Court and Superior Court
Overton thanked Linda McCullough for her work in arranging the committee tours of the California Supreme Court and the Superior Court of California on the previous afternoon. Committee members considered the facilities to offer some of the best examples of accessibility seen to date through committee tours. Kim Paarlberg was impressed by the incorporation of adjustable lecterns into the design of courtrooms in the Supreme Court. Vierra noted that its was helpful to have maintenance and operations staff for the facility available during the tour. Luis Pitarque and others suggested that the adjustable height work counters seen at the Supreme Court should be included in best practice recommendations. The Courthouse Subcommittee agreed to collect information on such counters for the committee website. It was also noted that emitters for infrared assistive listening systems were provided in corridors in addition to courtrooms and the jury assembly room. Sam noted that talking signs had been installed but they do not function very well.

AIA Academy of Architecture for Justice Conference (San Diego)
Denis Pratt briefed the committee on the presentation he and other committee representatives (Overton, Schwartz, Pitarque, Don Birdsall, and Dave Yanchulis) made at the AIA Academy of Architecture for Justice Conference in San Diego on November 4th. He noted that attendance at the session was modest (about 20) but that interest among attendees was strong.

International Building Code Requirements for Accessible Judges’ Benches
Paarlberg advised the committee of proposed amendments the International Code Council considered at public hearing on the International Building Code. The amendments, as submitted by the General Services Administration and the Administrative Office of the Courts, proposed allowing judges’ benches to be adaptable (e.g., through later installation of a lift) instead of fully accessible as part of design and construction. This change would be consistent with the Board’s ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines. The amendments failed due to concerns about small one- or two-courtroom courthouses where visiting judges are used more frequently. In such instances, adapting judges’ benches for access on an as-needed basis would not be practical. Also, it was noted that in designing for later lift installation the designs of available products may change considerably over time. Paarlberg recommended that the Courtroom Subcommittee take this into consideration in developing its recommendations.

Location of February Committee Meeting
Overton noted that Board staff have not been able to secure hotel accommodations in Miami for the February meeting of the committee. Suggestions were made for:

The preferred meeting dates are February 16 and 17, with February 9 and 10 as a backup.

Committee Website Materials
Vierra briefed members on content and materials posted on the committee’s website to date. The site and referenced documents were displayed on projector screens. The briefing included materials generated or collected by the subcommittees.

The committee then adjourned for lunch and subcommittee breakout sessions.

November 18th (8:30 – 2:00)

Joint Continental Breakfast with Members of the Access and Fairness Committee
Committee members and members of the California Judicial Council’s Access and Fairness Committee met informally over a continental breakfast.

Introduction of members of the California Judicial Council’s Access and Fairness Committee
Overton, in opening the meeting, introduced the California Judicial Council’s Access and Fairness Committee, which was holding its meetings elsewhere in the building. He noted the efforts that this body has made to address access issues in the California court system. Justice James Lambden, Chair of this committee, and other committee members introduced themselves.

Subcommittee Assignments
Killiam introduced a discussion of various subject areas where overlap may be occurring between the Courthouse and Courtroom subcommittees. Based on this discussion, it was verified that the Courtroom Subcommittee is addressing: holding cells serving courtrooms, secure corridors, jury deliberation suites, attorney/ witness rooms, and judges’ chambers. The Courthouse Subcommittee is covering central holding areas, conference rooms, and grand jury rooms. A task group of Courthouse Subcommittee members (McNabb, Clifton Grandy, and Bob Gammon) is covering means of egress and will address egress from courtrooms as part of this work.

Public Comment
Jul Lynn Parsons, Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Disability Council, noted that captioning access is needed in courtrooms and changes in courtroom assignments need to be conveyed in accessible formats. Ernestine Patterson called attention to the need for audio captioning for people with vision impairments, talking signs, and sensitivity training for court employees on providing guidance to people with vision impairments in traveling through courthouses and in filing forms and other paperwork.

Members met in subcommittee, and the full committee reconvened at 1:00.

Wrap Up and Adjournment
The committee reconvened after lunch. Overton noted that some members were to depart by 2:00 to catch return flights. Those that remained were invited to a screening of “Obstacle Courts,” a training video developed by the California Administrative Office of the Courts. Dates were considered and selected for the next co-chair conference call (January 19 at 4:00, Eastern) and for discussion of MCS issues (December 8, 15, or 16, 4:00 Eastern). The committee adjourned. Members of the Courtroom Subcommittee reconvened (until 3:00) and other members screened the video.