The New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, NMCDLA, is deeply concerned with Bernalillo County’s intention to build a jailhouse courtroom.
Apparently, the county is in the advanced stages of planning this project and has earmarked a considerable amount of funds to see it through. Our members cannot help but feel a little disappointed that such a significant development in our community’s criminal justice infrastructure is moving forward without any input, or any attempt to seek input, from the criminal defense bar or the public.
It is important to step back for a moment and look at this proposal through a wider lens. Historically, the placement, design and construction of courtrooms has been based on the constitutional principles that underpin our criminal justice system.
It is no accident American courthouses are centrally located buildings that are open to the public and easily accessible. Unlike other countries where the justice system can be closed or kept hidden from public view, the Constitution demands a different approach.