Northampton County Courtroom Number One.
It's what most of us think of when we imagine a courtroom, a beautiful and spacious room with high ceilings and magnificent, custom-made, windows. It's where I first saw my Dad in action when he took me with him to work one day.
First put in operation right after the Civil War, it was supposed to be converted to a "ceremonial" courtroom. But it is just too useful. It's large, easily capable of holding hundreds of people. The acoustics are remarkable and the huge well in front of the bench provides the judges both security and dignity.
As a young lawyer, I used to watch President Judge Palmer race through a list of cases every month, pressuring lawyers to settle or scheduling trials. One day, the name he called out belonged to a poorly-dressed fellow sitting in the back. He had no lawyer, and had been charged with a minor offense I no longer recall.
"Guilty, your honor."
Palmer, in a hurry to get rid of the case, called the defendant forward and went through a thirty second guilty plea with the guy, during which he learned that this fellow had deliberately committed a crime so he could stay somewhere warm during the winter.
Palmer, PJ: "How about thirty days?"
Defendant: "Could you make it 90, your Honor?"
Palmer, PJ: "If you don't shut up, I'll give you probation."
Unfortunately, falling patches of plaster and peeling lead paint forced Exec John Stoffa to issue an emergency executive order in July for $140 thousand in repairs. For the last month, contractors have worked feverishly, and I snuck inside on Monday to film this beautiful room.
Next week, Pennsylvania's Superior Court, which includes Northampton County Judges Jack Panella and Robert Freedberg, will be hearing cases in Courtroom Number One.