Courthouse: Judicial Chamber  

by WBDG Staff

Updated: 
10-22-2018

Overview

Judicial Chambers are areas used by the U.S. Courts and are typically located on the upper floors of a Courthouse building shell and core structure dedicated for U.S. Court occupancy. Judicial chambers are used for U.S. Court of Appeals Chambers Suite, U.S. District Chambers Suite, U.S. Bankruptcy/Magistrate Chambers Suite, and Visiting/Non-Resident Judge's Chambers Suite. Chambers serve a similar function as a law office practice and therefore require designs that are accessible, productive, functional/operational, sustainable, and secure/safe. See also WBDG Federal Courthouse.

Space Attributes

Photo of inside of a typical judicial chambers

Sample Judicial Chambers

Typical features of Judicial Chamber space types include the list of applicable design objectives elements as outlined below. For a complete list and definitions of the design objectives within the context of whole building design, click on the titles below.

Accessible

  • Private work areas must be adaptable to accessibility. It is recommended that private work areas be made accessible during initial design and construction to avoid more expensive alterations for accessibility in the future. Additionally, spaces should be designed with flexibility in mind to accommodate changing needs of the staff or users of the spaces.

Aesthetics

  • Interior finishes should reflect the same design quality of the courtroom. Chambers should be viewed as an extension of the courtroom. Finishes should give an impression of fine quality. Interior finishes should feature Premium Grade architectural woodwork, either wainscot or full wall height.

  • Floors must be carpeted. Wall and ceiling design must consider acoustics for internal speaking, light reflectance, and contrast.

Functional / Operational

  • The occupancy group classification is Business B-2 with sprinkler-protected construction.

  • GSA Acoustical class A for critical noise separation between courtrooms and chambers and for conference spaces within chambers.

  • Chambers have communicating stairs (separate from public stairs)—that are judicial restricted stairs with metal pan stair tread and landings at raised floor level. Restricted (Judiciary) elevators are geared traction type with front opening doors and keycard control. Elevator door faces are painted metal. The cab allowance is $30,000 (Oct '00 dollars).

judicial chamber bubble diagram

Sample magistrate judge's chambers. Each magistrate judge is allocated a total resident chambers area of 1,410 NSF or 130.89Nm2 to be subdivided in any way desired as conditions require. This diagram illustrates only one such potential layout of chambers suite spaces.
Image credit: U.S. Courts Design Guide.

Productive

  • Acoustical transfer ducts are provided at all acoustically rated partitions.

  • Separate Air Handling Units (AHUs) for Judicial Chambers since they have frequent low-density occupancy when courtrooms are not in use. Judicial Chambers located on collegial suits should be served by an AHU dedicated for that floor. 100% direct exhaust is provided and operated by time clock or building automation system for private toilets and service units.

  • Separate controls are provided at the Judge's Chamber with override by the building shell and core BAS. Individual override control of building heating and cooling control system to allow individual chambers to be occupied in off-hours (24/7) to accommodate special workload demands—without running the entire courthouse.

Secure / Safe

  • Mitigating design measures are required to protect Chambers from forced entry at adjoining public spaces and should include a comprehensive approach to operational, technical, and physical safety methods.

  • Natural daylit windows with operable window treatment to obscure views and ballistics-resistant glazing where line-of-sight risks exist.

Sustainable

  • A holistic approach to sustainability and green building design strategies should be considered and planned for the whole building. However, individual spaces should also be designed and planned with natural daylighting, energy efficient lighting, healthy indoor air quality, and Low and/or No-VOC materials, furnishes, and finishes whenever possible. To save or reduce energy use, consider occupancy sensors, dimmable ballasts, and energy efficient task lighting. To increase occupant comfort, provide individual control of HVAC in these spaces, wherever possible.
Lawyer and judge speaking to defendant via the Internet

As technology continues to play an increasingly larger role in the court process, it is important to plan for technology in the judicial chamber as well.

Example Program

The following building program is representative of Judicial Chambers.

JUDICIAL CHAMBERS

Description Per Set SF Each Small Courthouse Medium Courthouse Large Courthouse
Sr. District Chambers          
    Judge's Chambers 1 500 500 1,000 2,000
    Judge's Toilet 1 50 50 100 200
    Judge's Closet 1 10 10 20 40
    Vestibule 1 50 50 100 200
    Reception Area 1 100 100 200 400
    Coat Closet 1 10 10 20 40
    Secretarial Workstation 1 120 120 240 480
    File Storage Area 1 140 140 280 560
    Facsimile Machine Area 1 10 10 20 40
    Copier Area 1 50 50 100 200
    Storage 1 80 80 160 320
    Service Unit 1 20 20 40 80
    Reference/Conference Room 1 400 400 800 1,600
    Law Clerk's Offices
    (2 @ 150 SF/Chambers Suite)
2 150 300 600 1,200
District Chambers          
    Judge's Chambers 1 500 500 1,000 2,000
    Judge's Toilet 1 50 50 100 200
    Judge's Closet 1 10 10 20 40
    Vestibule 1 50 50 100 200
    Reception Area 1 100 100 200 400
    Coat Closet 1 10 10 20 40
    Secretarial Workstation 1 120 120 240 480
    File Storage Area 1 140 140 280 560
    Facsimile Machine Area 1 10 10 20 40
    Copier Area 1 50 50 100 200
    Storage 1 80 80 160 320
    Service Unit 1 20 20 40 80
    Reference/Conference Room 1 400 400 800 1,600
    Law Clerk's Offices
    (2 @ 150 SF/Chambers Suite)
2 150 300 600 1,200
    Shared Judges Conference Room with Service Unit 1 250 250 500 1,000
Magistrate Chamber          
    Judge's Chambers 1 400 400 1,600 3,200
    Judge's Toilet 1 50 50 200 400
    Judge's Closet 1 10 10 40 80
    Vestibule 1 50 50 200 400
    Reception Area 1 100 100 400 800
    Coat Closet 1 10 10 40 80
    Secretarial Workstation 1 120 120 480 960
    File Storage Area 1 60 60 240 480
    Facsimile Machine Area 1 10 10 40 80
    Copier Area 1 50 50 200 400
    Storage 1 80 80 320 640
    Service Unit 1 20 20 80 160
    Reference/Conference Room 1 300 300 1,200 2,400
    Law Clerk's Offices 1 150 150 600 1,200
Bankruptcy Chamber          
    Judge's Chambers 1 400 400 800 1,600
    Judge's Toilet 1 50 50 100 200
    Judge's Closet 1 10 10 20 40
    Vestibule 1 50 50 100 200
    Reception Area 1 100 100 200 400
    Coat Closet 1 10 10 20 40
    Secretarial Workstation 1 120 120 240 480
    File Storage Area 1 60 60 120 240
    Facsimile Machine Area 1 10 10 20 40
    Copier Area 1 50 50 100 200
    Storage 1 80 80 160 320
    Service Unit 1 20 20 40 80
    Reference/Conference Room 1 300 300 600 1,200
    Law Clerk's Offices 1 150 150 300 600

Sample Plans

Low rise courthouse-court floor


Example Construction Criteria

For GSA, the unit costs for Detention space types are based on the construction quality and design features in the following table . This information is based on GSA's benchmark interpretation and could be different for other owners.

Relevant Codes and Standards

Additional Resources

WBDG

Building Types

Federal Courthouse

Space Types

Courthouse: Courtroom, Courthouse: Enhanced Office, Hearing Room

Design Objectives

Aesthetics—Understanding the Language and Elements of Design, Functional / Operational—Account for Functional Needs, Functional / Operational—Ensure Appropriate Product/Systems Integration, Productive—Assure Reliable Systems and Spaces, Productive—Provide Comfortable Environments, Secure / Safe—Occupant Safety and Health

Project Management

Delivery Teams—Select Appropriate Design Professionals

Building Commissioning

Building Commissioning

Publications

Others