PENNSYLVANIA Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille lost his right leg in battle in Vietnam, but it was the scars he's received as an advocate for the new Family Court building that were highlighted at a ceremony at the construction site yesterday.
"This is a reality because of you, sir," Family Court Administrative Judge Kevin Dougherty said to Castille. "The hard work and scars our chief justice bears [occurred] so everyone can seek justice in this building."
Castille, Dougherty and other area officials were on hand for a "topping out" ceremony of the building on Arch Street near 15th. The ceremony marked the placement of the highest beam on the 15-story, 51,000-square-foot structure. Now, rather than building up, construction workers can begin working on the interior and walls of the building, which is slated to be completed in June 2014.
Before Castille began overseeing the project in 2008, attorney Jeffrey B. Rotwitt of the firm Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel had been hired to determine a location for the building. However, in 2010 the Inquirer reported that Rotwitt had become a business partner with the site's developer.
Rotwitt was taken off the project and fired by his firm. Castille filed a lawsuit against Rotwitt and the firm, which was settled this year for $4 million.
"We hired a crack attorney," Castille said yesterday. "Later, we fired the crack attorney."
The new building will unify the city's juvenile court, which is in an outdated building at 19th and Vine streets, and its domestic-relations division, which is at 11th and Market streets in a building Castille called "intolerable" and "dangerous."
Family Court supervising Judge Margaret Murphy said it was important the new building be in Center City for easy access to those it will serve.
"We weren't destined to be in a remote location," Murphy said.
Lynn A. Marks, executive director for Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, said yesterday's ceremony marked one step toward shorter lines and more dignity for those in the Family Court system.
"How a city treats its people in crisis is symbolic of what they think about the people," she said.