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Salem dedicates J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center

Posted by Justin Rice  February 28, 2012 05:05 PM

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Salem’s new $106 million courthouse on Federal Street was officially dedicated this afternoon.

The new 195,000-square-foot J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center was named after the late Salem state representative who died in 2006 after three decades in the State House.

“I’m humbled and overwhelmed,” Ruane’s widow, Helena Piecewicz Ruane, said  shortly after the ceremony. “I’m very proud and honored for the entire Ruane family.”

The 81-year-old said her husband first started lobbying for the courthouse when he was on the Salem City Council in the early 1970s.  

“He loved the City of Salem, he loved working so hard [on making] this a reality,” she said. “I wish he was here to enjoy this but he’s looking over us.”

The courthouse, which opened its doors for business in late November, has 11 courtrooms and houses Essex Superior Court, the Salem District Court, the Juvenile Court that leased space at Shetland Park, and the Housing Court. The Superior Court serves Essex County, while the District Court serves Salem, Beverly, and Danvers, among other communities. Juvenile Court serves Salem, Peabody, Danvers, Middleton, Beverly, and others.

“What a statement it makes when you come into this city to see this first-class facility,” Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray said during his remarks at the ceremony.  “Salem is one of our gateway cities and we know they play vital roles for regions of the state.

"Congrats to everyone involved on a great day for Salem, a great day for the North Shore, and a great day for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well.”

In addition to giving the new five-story structure sweeping views of Salem’s steeple-stacked skyline and the North River, the courthouse’s architectural firm, Goody Clancy, took painstaking efforts to follow the SJC’s design guidelines. Those guidelines require as much natural light as possible in new courthouses, especially in the courtrooms. Principal architect Joan E. Goody, who died midway through the three-year project, was able to bring natural light to some of the courtrooms in the building’s interior by carving a courtyard into the middle of the building that also collects rainwater and filters it to underground storage tanks.

The old court facilities did not meet national safety standards that require separate facilities for the public, courthouse employees, and prisoners. The new building has separate elevators and restrooms and hallways to move prisoners through the building without crossing paths with the public.

“This new facility was developed with energy efficiency and sustainability in mind,” said Carole Cornelison, the commissioner of the Division of Capital Asset Management, which oversaw the construction of the courthouse.

After the ceremony, a plaque was unveiled to memorialize the late Judge Samuel E. Zoll, who was chief justice of the Massachusetts District Courts for 28 years. Zoll’s niece, Alison Fields ,performed the national anthem as well as "God Bless America during the ceremony."

A moment before the plaque was unveiled outside Courtroom A, Zoll’s son, Barry Zoll, said a mockup of the plaque was presented to his father before he died last April.

“I can tell you it meant more to him that this courtroom would be named after him,” he said, “More than you can ever imagine.”

Justin A. Rice can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com.

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