Second DCA to share space at Stetson

first_imgFor judges at the Tampa branch of the Second District Court of Appeal, it’s a case of it never being too late to go back to school. In this instance, it’s the new Tampa campus of the Stetson University College of Law.But it’s not for learning the judges are returning, although the result could be considered an education for the court, the law school, and the public about sharing facilities and benefits.The university and the court have struck a deal that Stetson will build offices for the court at the new law school, which will be aimed at part-time and night law school students. The public-private partnership has caught the fancy of the legislature, and both the House and Senate have included money in their proposed budgets to proceed with the project.“It’s sort of a win-win for both sides,” said Judge Chris Altenbernd, who is overseeing the deal. “To be able to demonstrate a public-private partnership like this, we’re pretty proud of being able to dream this up.”“We think that this is a great event for the law school and the court because it enables us to work together in some unique ways,” said Stetson law Dean Gary Vause. “placing the court in the building with the law school, that will obviously allow the court to use the resources of the law school, including our library, which will have a larger collection than found typically in a court.”Lawyers coming to the court will also have access to the library and hence will also benefit, he noted.“It will be a tremendous learning opportunity for our students to be able to go in and observe court sessions, right there on their own campus,” Vause said.The arrangement had its genesis several years ago when the Second DCA’s Tampa branch, which now rents space from Hillsborough County in its courthouse annex building, began looking at constructing a new building.The legislature appropriated design and study money (and did the same for a proposed branch for the First DCA in Jacksonville) and the city of Tampa offered an attractive site at a good price.“We were working in that direction when the downturn in the economy, 9/11, and a dozen other factors caused people to realize that a new building in either Jacksonville or Tampa is not a good idea,” Altenbernd said. “The court decided not to pursue a stand-alone courthouse. That meant since we were going to be evicted in a few years [because the county needs the space], we had to find another solution.”Fellow Judge Thomas E. Stringer, a Stetson trustee, mentioned that Stetson was planning the branch law school, and the city was offering the same site it used to try to lure the new Florida A&M University law school to the city. The judges figured if the law school added a floor to the planned two-story structure, the appellate court could share the facility.Since it was planned as primarily a night and part-time law school, the judges could use the parking, courtroom, law library, and other facilities during the day, and the students would have it at night.“We rather quickly worked out an oral understanding that they were interested in building that space for us,” Altenbernd said. “We would lease a floor of their building, probably around 20,000 square feet, and we would put our offices on that floor.”A side benefit, he added, is the deal will enhance the court’s ongoing program of using Stetson law students as interns. “We run four to six law students as interns every year in the court, and this arrangement will make it easy to maintain that level and maybe expand it,” he said.Legislators also liked the idea and in a tight budget year appropriated $435,000 for the program.Vause said part-time students will be able to take courses both at the new school and at the existing Gulf Port campus, and Stetson also hopes to offer a wide range of continuing legal education courses for lawyers at the new facility.“We are also exploring new degree programs that will be offered during the day as well as the evening,” Vause said, adding that he couldn’t release any more details because those plans are still pending before the ABA.Construction on the law school is set to start in late spring or early summer, with the court beginning to move into its new offices in June 2003. May 1, 2002 Regular News Second DCA to share space at Stetsoncenter_img Second DCA to share space at Stetsonlast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *