Public Waiting Areas

Washington County, Minnesota Courthouse Waiting Area

It is important that the traffic patterns of the general public and of persons having business before the court not be overlooked. When the court is in session, people typically congregate in hallways by the courtroom entrances while waiting for their cases to be called or for court to begin. These persons include litigants and their families, members of the private bar, law enforcement officers, witnesses, the press, and members of the general public. If courts provide no waiting areas for these persons, that forces them to mill about in congested corridors or compete for limited seating.

Traffic congestion in narrow corridors, the noise it generates, and the debris that accumulates can be remedied by providing a public-waiting area off the hallways. Waiting areas draw this traffic out of the hallway and into a semi-closed area or alcove. Waiting spaces should be inviting and designed to separate opposing parties instead of crowding everyone together.

The waiting areas should be between 200 and 400 square feet in area and, if possible, should be located in sight of the courtrooms they serve. Traffic and other high volume courtrooms require larger waiting areas, while 200 square feet is more appropriate for general trial courtrooms that have less public seating.

Walls, ceilings, and furniture should be acoustically treated to deaden sound transmissions. Access to natural light is desirable.

All waiting areas and their support elements, such as drinking fountains and public telephones, should be fully accessible to persons with disabilities.

Waiting areas should be distributed throughout the court facility. In multi-story courthouses, the waiting areas should be easily located from the elevator lobby area.

At least one waiting area should be provided for every four courtrooms in large courthouses. If courtrooms are in clusters of less than four and are on different floors, one waiting area should be paired with each cluster.

Public waiting areas overlooking lobbies, or with balconies, should be protected by a barrier to prevent someone from falling or jumping. Any areas where contraband or weapons may be hidden should be eliminated.

Furnishings should be comfortable, but made of durable, low-maintenance vandal-resistant materials.

Consideration might be given to placing video display monitors in public-waiting areas to provide directions and court-scheduling information.