Hundreds of civic leaders and the biggest names in the legal community gathered on Friday to celebrate the opening of Miami-Dade’s Children’s Courthouse — a gleaming modern building featuring 18 courtrooms and bear sculptures in the lobby to greet visitors.
After more than a decade of planning, the courthouse replaces the tiny, aging and universally disdained juvenile courthouse about five miles west.
The new 14-story building, at 155 NW Third Street, sits in the heart of downtown across from the Miami Police department and County Hall, and boasts 375,000 square feet to house judicial chambers, court administration, clerks, prosecutors, defense attorneys and police and corrections officers.
“The people who work here are the ones who are going to make this a place of healing and hope,” Miami-Dade Public Defender Carlos Martinez told the crowd on a sweltering morning at the foot of the new courthouse.
Judges at the building will oversee juvenile, delinquency, dependency and other cases involving children and families.
The $110-million building also boasts four large-scale murals and tile installations adorned with portraits done by public-school students. A family of bears, some peeking out of windows and around columns – done by sculptor Tom Otterness – appear inside the building flooded with natural light.
The Judge Seymour Gelber & Judge William E. Gladstone Miami-Dade Children’s Courthouse is named after two venerated local judges whose work heavily involved children and families.
The crowd included a bevy of judges past and present, and top figures in Miami-Dade’s justice system, including Martinez, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, as well as former Florida Gov. Bob Graham. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez also spoke.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Orlando Prescott, who heads the juvenile division, told the crowd that while the building is new, the “mission remains the same.”
“To provide for the care, safety and protection of the children, to ensure the protection of society and preserve and strengthen family ties,” Prescott said.