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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Court branches combined in city

NASHUA – Nashua’s branch of the county superior court is ready for a space crunch.

The north branch of the Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester transferred its operations – including judges, clerks, bailiffs and case folders – to the 30 Spring St. building in Nashua during the week between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Everything, from parking and courtrooms to storage and judges chambers, was to be packed, but enough room has been made, according to Marshall Buttrick, clerk of the Nashua court.

“From our position, our operations continue as they always have. We just have less space to work with,” Buttrick said. “It affects us, but not as much as North moving down. That’s a big change.”

The move began last Monday and the north branch was closed for the week, reopening in Nashua on Monday, according to an update from the Hillsborough North/ Hillsborough South Project Management Team.

The 300 Chestnut St. courthouse in Manchester is scheduled to reopen July 1, 2011, after asbestos abatement and a full interior remodeling project are completed, according to Laura Kiernan, the state court system’s communications director.

In the interim, Hillsborough North hearings and trials will take up the second floor of the Nashua courthouse and Hillsborough South cases will be on the third, according to the project management team.

Each court will have separate criminal and marital counters inside the clerk’s office on the first floor, Buttrick said.

Aside from tighter quarters, that’s one of the few changes Hillsborough South employees will contend with, he said.

There will still be separate grand juries for North and South cases. The grand juries will meet on a staggered schedule as they always do, since the same county attorney’s office presents cases to both, Buttrick said.

A jury assembly room on the second floor will be used as Chief Justice Robert Lynn’s courtroom.

Marital Master David Forrest, who hears cases every other month, will use a room at Milford District Court, Buttrick said.

Hillsborough North staff also brought hundreds of case files, mostly pending cases, but Hillsborough South staffers have already squeezed their own files to make space, he said.

“We’re making room. We’re being creative,” Buttrick said. “Things are going to be, physically, very tight.”

An additional metal detector will also be brought from Manchester and installed in Nashua, Buttrick said, so a second security line can be opened to keep people moving swiftly through the courthouse entrance.

Lawyers generally practicing in Manchester are being encouraged to get security key cards that would allow them to bypass the metal detectors, as Hillsborough South lawyers have done since 2007.

The already crowded parking area behind the Nashua building will be reserved for the courts’ employees on a first-come, first-served basis. About 30 spots should be open for the public, according to the project management team.

City officials have sectioned off 188 spaces in the Elm Street parking garage for free juror parking so metered spots will remain open for shoppers in the area, according to the management team.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or