San Joaquin County Opens New Courthouse in Stockton

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STOCKTON -- After 10 years of planning and construction, a new San Joaquin County courthouse opened to the public Monday.

With 13 floors, the courthouse is now the tallest building in the city.

The building originally expected to cost $280 million but the price tag jumped to $300 million by the time it was completed.

Judge Robin Appel, who helped oversee the project, said costs grew over time.

"It just cost extra money. As a court, we had no control over that," Appel said. "It's not like we picked fancy fixtures. In fact, we continued to downgrade and downgrade and downgrade things we wanted."

The project ran into many delays and obstacles, even on Monday, when spectators noticed the California state flag was flying upside down. But much like any other problem, it was fixed.

"The fact that that happened actually, for us, added some levity," Appel said.

Comparing the old building with the new one, it's easy to see the upgrade -- but it's what's on the inside that counts. The building is designed to keep you safer.

"The public will be separated from in-custody defendants because they will be kept in a secure hallway without moving near the public or the staff," Appel said.

More than 250 courthouse employees and 40 judges participated in the courthouse's grand opening, including retired Judge Frank Kim.

"I was in the district attorney's office from 1960 to 1962," Kim said. "It was a marvelous building, however it was outdated."

Kim said the new building is a jewel.