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In Time of Need, Flooded State Court Gets Help From Federal Neighbor

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When a state courthouse in Lexington, Ky., was shut down by a recent plumbing incident, a neighboring federal courthouse offered assistance in an unusual way.

For two weeks, while extensive water damage was being repaired, the Lexington Division of the Eastern District of Kentucky opened up courtroom space so that state cases could continue to be heard.

A weekend plumbing failure late last year left several inches of water on four floors of the Robert F. Stephens Circuit Courthouse, home of the Fayette Circuit Court. The flooding damaged courtrooms, judges' chambers, office space, and public areas alike. State officials closed the courthouse for reasons of safety and to permit immediate cleaning and repairs.

Upon learning of the flooding, Chief United States District Judge Karen K. Caldwell acted quickly, along with her colleagues in the Lexington division, to make sure that the courtrooms in the federal courthouse were available to the judges of the Fayette Circuit Court. With careful scheduling and the cooperation of the judges, staff, and security officials from both courts, the state court convened alongside the U. S. District Court in the federal courthouse for two weeks.

The U.S. courthouse has four courtrooms to accommodate the needs of five resident federal judges.

Robert Carr, Clerk of Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, said, “Even though our space is tight, we were pleased to help our state court colleagues in this unique time of need.”

Judge D. Brooks Smith, Chair of the Space and Facilities Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, commended the judges for finding a creative solution that allowed the state court to remain operational. "I see the potential for exploring opportunities for shared use of certain types of facilities in appropriate situations," Judge Smith said.

Following cleaning and repairs, the Fayette Circuit Courthouse reopened to the public in November, though some areas of the building are still subject to ongoing work to remedy the water damage.

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