Family Court Keeps Current Home Pending Budget Approval

The First Judicial District’s Family Court plans to keep its domestic relations branch at 34 S. 11th St. until a new court building is approved by Harrisburg has been finalized.

The court signed a five-year lease a few weeks ago with the building’s owner, Trinity Capital Associates, according to Jeff Jubelirer of the Ceisler Jubelirer public relations firm that does media relations work for the FJD.

The new lease starts July 1, Jubelirer said. The current lease expires this month.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Capital Budget, which includes proposed funding for a unified Family Court building, is still in committee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

The state Senate passed the public works budget, including $200 million in funding for a new Family Court building at 15th and Arch streets, this spring. The 2007-08 fiscal year capital budget has been referred to the House of Representatives to consider amendments to the budget, including the Family Court appropriations, since the House’s version of the capital budget was passed last summer.

Last year’s capital budget has been “sitting around” for so long, it will be considered as part of negotiations for the next budget cycle this month, according to Johnna A. Pro, a spokeswoman for Rep. Dwight Evans, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Philadelphia and is chair of the House Majority Appropriations Committee.

The capital budget bill, as well as the companion bill to raise the debt ceiling, will be a central part of the June budget bill process ahead of the June 30 budget deadline, Pro said. If passed, the current debt-ceiling bill would raise the debt ceiling by $750 million to $3.4 billion.

“We fully expect all of this to be part of the budget negotiations,” Pro said. “The Senate didn’t do it last year. We think everybody is ready to take it up.”

If the budget gets passed, Gov. Edward G. Rendell will have the authority decide which of the many wish-list public projects will get funded. Rendell has expressed support for a new Philadelphia Family Court building in the past.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Kevin M. Dougherty, administrative judge of the family division, said in an appearance in April in before the Philadelphia Bar Association’s family law section that it was more cost-effective to stay at 34 S. 11th St., despite its crowded, unsafe conditions, pending the approval and construction of a new building. The court also considered a move to another temporary site before moving to a final, unified destination
Amaris Elliott-Engel
Staff Reporter

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