Arkansas Library Evicts Courtfrom Building

Arkansas Library Evicts Court from Building

In what might prove to be the end game in a conflict that’s persisted for over a decade, the Pine Bluff–Jefferson County (Ark.) Library System served an eviction notice to District Court Judge Waymond Brown June 10 requiring him to remove his court’s operations from the ground floor of the library building.

Division 2 of the Jefferson County District Court has occupied the space since 2001 in an arrangement that was intended as a temporary measure until a new facility could be built to house it and Division 1; however, plans for the new building were derailed due to a lack of funds, explained library Director Dave Burdick. The court’s presence began to create problems for the library’s staff and patrons: In 2004, a prisoner who escaped from a hearing tried to hide in the ground-floor children’s theater, which was being used by participants in the summer reading club; and in 2006 shackled prisoners were being moved within 20 steps of parents with children in tow, Burdick told American Libraries.

Although trials and hearings were subsequently moved to other county buildings, the court’s operations have continued to adversely affect the operations of the library, which also needs the space for its own services. The library asked the court to vacate the premises in April 2007, giving nine months’ notice as called for in its contract. At that time it also began charging the court $1,000 in monthly rent instead of the previous token $1 rental fee. Burdick said the library “held meeting after meeting to try to get them to abide by the terms of the contract,” but the court refused to make plans to move or pay the rent.

The library board then hired an attorney, former Juvenile Justice Thomas Brown, who served the legal notice requiring the district court judge to vacate the building by June 16, the Pine Bluff Commercial reported June 11. Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. told the newspaper the city would comply—“no ifs, ands, or buts.”

Posted on June 13, 2008. Discuss.