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Justice decayed, answers to questions of feasbility delayed

Everyone agrees the Baltimore City Circuit Court buildings are “absolutely terrible” and that a new courthouse is in order, the city’s administrative judge declared at a meeting of city and state criminal justice officials last fall.

To this end, the city and its circuit court ponied up between $600,000 and $700,000 for a Maryland Stadium Authority-picked consultant to study the upgrade possibilities.

At that same September 2009 Baltimore City Criminal Justice Coordinating Council meeting, the representative from Los Angeles-based consultancy AECOM Inc. promised a final report with recommendations by this past spring.

In January, MSA spokeswoman Jan Hardesty offered assurances of that schedule.

“It’s on course, it’s on schedule,” Hardesty said. “It should be out in early spring.”

When nothing came out by June, I spoke with Judge Marcella Holland, the city’s administrative judge, who told me the study’s publication date was more likely to be late summer. When it still wasn’t out by late September, I asked again after its progress. The latest update came Friday from MSA Project Executive Gary A. McGuigan, who acknowledged the delay but said such an important matter should not be rushed.

“It’s still going to be a little bit,” he said. “My best guess right now is it’s probably going to be the end of the year.

“It’s very complicated. It’s a very large report, and we want to make sure we get this thing right,” McGuigan explained. “It’s taken longer than I had hoped, but like I said, we want to get this thing right.”

So, given that it’s already been several years that litigants, lawyers, judges, courthouse employees and members of the public have had to deal with a decaying — if still stately in some ways — pair of courthouses, and it won’t be several more years (or, God forbid, decades) until the problem is properly solved, what’s another year or so (and a half million dollars) more spent putting a plan together?