Mold found growing in courtroom
The Battle Courtroom, which might need to be renamed The Embattled Courtroom, is suffering once again from water and humidity problems.
This time it’s not the leaky roof allowing water to splatter down into the courtroom or condensation dripping from the air vents down on the attorneys. This time it’s mold.
Cleaning crews scrubbed the courtroom last week, located in the Orange County Courthouse, from top to bottom after mold was discovered on the furniture. Even the air was scrubbed.
Staff and attorneys had been complaining about the humidity in the courtroom and in the rest of the building, so Orange County Clerk James Stanford and other officials decided to meet to discuss the problem Monday morning.
They held the meeting in the downstairs courtroom because it has wi-fi, and the air-conditioning specialist needed the Internet to access computerized records, Stanford said.
As they sat down to talk, one of the clerks noticed white stuff on the furniture.
“Lo and behold, we found mold growing on all the furniture,” Stanford said.
A white mold was growing on furniture throughout the courtroom, including on the cushioned jury seats and the upholstered chairs that the attorneys use.
“It was obvious you couldn’t hold court down there,” he said.
The upholstered chairs were a bit soggy, too, Stanford said.
“If you sat in the chairs when you got up, you were wet,” he said.
The courtroom is used for Superior Court, and is the courtroom where Orange County’s most notorious criminal trials have been held, including the trial of Laurence Lovette Jr., who was convicted there of killing UNC’s student body president, Eve Carson.
Superior Court was scheduled to be held there this past week, but when people arrived on Tuesday, a deputy directed them to go across the street to the old courthouse.
Attorneys, defendants, victims and staff climbed the steep wooden steps to the small upstairs courtroom in the old courthouse, and when deputies brought in several violent offenders, they had to walk them past everyone sitting in the gallery.
“It’s a safety hazard,” Stanford said.
The Battle Courtroom, which was built in the mid 1990s, has a back entrance and holding cell for defendants.
Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall recalled that on the first day court was held in the Battle Courtroom, the attorney sitting at the defense table asked the judge if he could move the table because water was dripping on him from air conditioning vents in the ceiling.
Things went downhill from there. The roof leaked, the window seals rotted and mold grew on the wallpaper.
“We have literally held court in there with 50 gallon cans there collecting water while we were in there,” Woodall said.
“I think it’s one of the shabbiest built buildings I’ve ever been in,” he added.
Over the years, crews have worked hard to try to solve the problems, he said.
“I just think that when something is that poorly constructed, it is really hard to fix it,” Woodall said.
On Tuesday, Orange County employees and a professional cleaning crew from Nice & Green Floor Care Specialists started cleaning the courtroom. They cleaned the carpets and the upholstered furniture, turned up the heat to try to dry things out, brought in dehumidifiers and air scrubbers, and wiped everything down with a special cleaning solution.