Recent polls have shown voter unhappiness with outgoing Gov. Mike Foster. But the justices of the Louisiana Supreme Court and the judges of the state Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal apparently think that the governor has done a bang-up job of helping to renovate their future digs at the French Quarter courthouse, 400 Royal St.
Led by Chief Justice Pascal Calogero Jr. and Chief Judge Joan B. Armstrong of the Fourth Circuit, and the Louisiana Supreme Court Historical Society, the jurists last week co-hosted ceremonies commemorating "the inestimable contribution" of Foster toward the completion of the final renovation of the courthouse. Built in 1909, the four-story, 200,000-square-foot beaux-arts building housed the state's highest court from 1910 to 1958. The court then moved to its present home on Loyola Avenue.
"[Foster] has been supportive in pushing the renovation forward," says Valerie Willard, public information director for the High Court. The $40 million project (furnishings not included) languished for years until 1997, when the Legislature re-affirmed its commitment for funding the renovation of the building, formerly home to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries. And Foster helped to secure the necessary state funding. "I think Governor Foster shared the belief that postponing [the project] was costing more than getting it completed now," Willard says. The major interior renovation by Brice Building Co. has been completed, Willard says, though minor construction remains. The Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit will move into the Royal Street courthouse sometime after Mardi Gras 2004, Willard says.
The courthouse also will provide office space for the State Judicial Administrator, the Law Library of Louisiana and Attorney General-elect Charles Foti Jr. Parking space figures to be another matter, however. There will be an estimated 18 to 24 parking spaces in the building garage, all of which are expected to go to the jurists. John T. Olivier, clerk of court for the Supreme Court, is negotiating off-site parking leases for the several hundred courthouse employees. The French Quarter is arguably the most expensive area of the city in which to park.
The Fourth Circuit is currently housed in the 1515 Poydras St. office building, just down the street from City Hall. The Supreme Court is housed on the second floor of 301 Loyola Ave., across Duncan Plaza from City Hall.
Foster leaves his own office Jan. 12, with the inauguration of Gov.-elect Kathleen Blanco.