Nakamura Courthouse Tour

By , March 17, 2010 11:47 am

by Erin Hoffrance

Photo by Kate Stockert

A crisp, late February afternoon was the backdrop to the LLOPS tour of the new retrofitted William Kenzo Nakamura United States Courthouse. The Courthouse is used by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Tim Sheehy, Branch Librarian, and Sarah Griffith, CALR librarian, were kind enough to give us a tour and a little history to go along with it. In 2001 the Courthouse was re-dedicated and named after William Kenzo Nakamura. Nakamura, who died in the line of duty and received the Medal of Honor for his heroism many years after his death in World War II while his family was held in Japanese internment camps by the American government.

A Brief History
Part of the Courthouse’s rich history is its architectural designs. Tim and others are working on an Interpretive Center where this history can be displayed. The Nakamura Courthouse was the first courthouse in the Western United States designed to be primarily a courthouse. Previously, courthouses and post offices were housed on one site. To keep the Courthouse in top shape it has been retrofitted with metal re-bar to withstand seismic activity which should hold up for the next 150 years. Even the front lawn underwent some revisions, it was ripped up and reinstalled so as to make room for a secured parking. In 1939, it cost $1.7 million to build; the recent retrofit cost $80 million. It is interesting to note that there have been several famous cases represented at the Nakamura Courthouse, some of which were cases involving, the Japanese internment (Hirabayashi v. United States), Sudafed tampering, Margarethe (“Greta”) Cammermeyer, the Spotted Owl, and Reasonable Woman.

The Tour
We visited several places on the tour, the Attorney Lounge, the Judge’s Chambers, the Judges Robing Room, a Courtroom, and last but not least, the Library. The Judge’s Chambers were very nice. There is a kitchenette, plenty of resources, copier, phone, couch, desk, and I was fascinated to see that each Chambers had a bathroom! The Judge’s Robing Room is where the Judges don their robes and adjoins the courtroom. The courtroom is larger than I would have imagined and has the original benches. I felt pretty powerful standing at the head of the courtroom!

The Library headquarters are located in San Francisco. A great tool headed up by a librarian in Tucson is a table that keeps track of any website cited in a Ninth Circuit opinion and is captured here. While in the library, Tim pointed out an interesting mural hanging on the wall representing good and bad government by Caleb Ives Bach. Bach is said to have been inspired by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, a 14th century Italian artist. For those who had been in the library before the renovation might remember how the library shelves. The shelves are much lower now, getting rid of that scary journey up the ladder for that elusive, but much needed book.

The tour was a great experience, and we learned a bit more about an important part of Seattle history. Many of the tour highlights were items that were kept from the old building, like the mail chutes and the original woodwork, and the pure simplistic beauty of the original architectural detail.

Thank you to our tour guides Tim Sheehy and Sarah Griffith!

2 Responses to “Nakamura Courthouse Tour”

  1. Kate S. says:

    Great article Erin–very fun read!

  2. […] No bird-watching, but great views of the city, atop the Federal Courthouse, that is, if the view is not obstructed by a […]

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