If the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Courthouse were a car, it would fall under the state’s Lemon Law.
To refresh, the $169 million courthouse — which is supposed to be state of the art and a fixture in downtown Miami architecture — was $69 million over budget when it finally opened in late 2007. The glass behemoth had been beset by flooding, electrical and technological problems and opened two years late.
This year, the courthouse finally gave up on its “clay” pathways and replaced them with shell-encrusted pavers. Also, the elaborate sheet fountain at the entrance of the building has remained silent for weeks. Word is that those concrete benches that look like they were designed by the Marquis de Sade are on their way out, but nobody could confirm those rumors.
The worst came when a recent heavy rainstorm drove U.S. District Judge Donald Graham out of his chambers.
The roof was already being repaired when the deluge caused massive leaking in Graham’s office, forcing him and his staff to move to the visiting judge’s chambers in the courthouse. He said it will probably take at least 30 days to repair the damage.
It was bad timing for the General Services Administration because Graham was sitting in as chief judge while U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno was out of the country on vacation.
Graham fired off a letter to the GSA, which serves the landlord for federal buildings, saying he is concerned about defects at the courthouse, the possibility of mold because of water intrusion, and that the new courthouse being built in Fort Pierce could have similar problems.
“Obviously, we are not pleased with the scenario, but these things happen and we are trying to get it resolved as quickly as we can,” he said.
Graham said there was also some minor water damage in other judges’ chambers because of the roof leaks.
The GSA did not respond to questions about problems at the new federal courthouse.