Release Date: October 18, 2001
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Law School has become the only law school in the nation to house a fully functioning state court in its law school building with the grand opening today of the UB Law Courtroom.
Equipped for state-of-the-art technology, it will provide UB law students with the invaluable opportunity to see the practice of law "in action" on a daily basis, just down the hall from their classrooms.
As a result of its innovative multi-use design, the UB Law Courtroom can be used for appellate arguments, as well as trials. It features a bench constructed to accommodate from one to seven judges, judicial chambers, a jury deliberation room and spectator seating for up to 100.
The UB Law School held the grand opening of its new courtroom, completed at a cost of slightly more than $1 million, in the courtroom on the ground floor of the law school building, John Lord O'Brian Hall, on the UB North (Amherst) Campus.
Tomorrow morning, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court Fourth Department will convene in the courtroom for its inaugural session, to hear oral arguments on a full calendar of 23 cases. The Appellate Division is expected to return to the UB Law Courtroom at least twice each academic year. Beginning early next year, a State Supreme Court Justice will be assigned to the courtroom on a full-time basis to conduct the full range of state trial court business -- from oral arguments to full-blown jury trials. Members of the federal judiciary are expected to make use of the courtroom for federal proceedings as well.
UB President William R. Greiner noted that "as the first and only full-service courtroom in the nation to occupy a law school, the UB Law School Courtroom takes university partnerships with local communities to an unprecedented level.
"This courtroom," he added, "will be a tremendous boon to both the UB Law School and to the Western New York legal community, whose support for this project has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. The state-of-the-art technology, combined with daily trial and appellate proceedings, will place UB Law School in a unique position in education.
"We're very grateful for the outstanding support from the State of New York, our provost, University Facilities -- and especially our UB Law School alumni -- for the successful completion of this facility," Greiner said.
"The courtroom is especially valuable because it enables the university, and the law school in particular, to integrate professional activity into the curriculum," said Nils Olsen, dean of the Law School.
"This cooperative venture will enhance the educational opportunities for students, and it also benefits the bench and the bar and brings them much closer to the university," Olsen said.
The judicial community also has voiced strong support for the new courtroom.
"The new courtroom at the University of Buffalo Law School is a unique facility that gives students and the legal community of Western New York access to a state-of-the-art venue for teaching and litigation of both trial and appellate matters," said Eugene F. Pigott, presiding justice of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, Fourth Department.
"The new courtroom," he added, "will serve to strengthen the already strong bonds of friendship and cooperation between the university, lawyers and the courts. I commend President Greiner, Dean Olsen and the entire university community for the new facility, which will be a national model for years to come."
Vincent E. Doyle, administrative judge of the Supreme Court, Eighth Judicial Division, said the courtroom will mix theoretical and practical aspects of the law in the same setting.
"It's teaching law students what it is like to be a lawyer, and it works for both the legal community and the students," Doyle said. "As administrative judge, I will assign judges to hold court in this splendid courtroom as often as possible."
The new courtroom is part of a major renovation of O'Brian Hall. The renovation created two 85-seat lecture halls and three smaller classrooms, in addition to the courtroom suite, by reconfiguring space that previously was used for a single, oversized lecture hall.
Funding for the project, Olsen said, was made possible by a partnership between University Facilities, Planning and Construction and the Office of the Provost; capital funding from New York State, and generous contributions from UB law alumni.
Both the courtroom and the new classrooms have Internet access and are able to support the use of computers and new educational technology.
The new courtroom will offer UB law students an unparalleled opportunity to observe court proceedings in action, said George Kannar, vice dean and professor of law, who oversaw the design and construction of the project.
"The UB Law Courtroom will provide students with a unique opportunity to gain hands-on insight into the judicial process, from the very first day of their legal education," said Kannar. "It is an opportunity for UB law students to take what they're learning in the classroom and to see those lessons applied in practice, in a full-fledged working courtroom located just across the hall.
"The courtroom should provide a real focal point -- hopefully, a point of pride -- for the law school community, something that further emphasizes, both to students and prospective students, this law school's distinct status as the only law school in the State University of New York system."
The Arts & Crafts-style courtroom, designed by the architectural firm Foit-Albert and Associates, features oak-paneled walls and Arts & Crafts-style oak furniture custom built by CCN International of Geneva, N.Y., and Valley City Manufacturing Co. of Dundas, Ontario, Canada.
"We wanted the courtroom to be consistent with Western New York traditions, and the Roycroft style of furniture is something people associate with Western New York," Kannar said. "We chose oak paneling and furniture that match the original student lockers in O'Brian Hall to give a consistent sense of design."
Construction of the courtroom, begun in July 2000, was completed at a cost of slightly more than $1 million by Picone Construction Corp. of Williamsville.
"The project is a model for capital renovation for the law school in the future," noted Olsen.
The legal community has been enthusiastic about the new courtroom, Olsen and Kannar said.
"The response from the judiciary and the bar has been tremendous," said Kannar. "Everyone seems to appreciate the opportunity that the UB Law Courtroom presents to integrate the law school into the ongoing work of the legal community, and the judges seem genuinely excited about being able to integrate the educational process into the judicial process as well.
"The courtroom also serves a valuable purpose for the Town of Amherst," he added, "by bringing these essential government services and functions much closer to home, making them more convenient and accessible for all of the town's residents."
Olsen also praised the local judiciary for its support of the project.
"I am grateful for the support and assistance of Judge Doyle and Judge Pigott, who were extremely helpful, and I appreciate their willingness to participate in the courtroom project," he said.
A panel of state appellate judges will be on campus tomorrow to help commemorate the official opening of the new courtroom.
The Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, Fourth Department, will convene in the courtroom to hear oral arguments on a full calendar of 23 cases.
Judges to be present at the session will be Pigott; Samuel L. Green and Christopher Burns, both of Erie County in the Eighth Judicial District, and Donald J. Wisner of Monroe County and L. Paul Kehoe of Wayne County in the Seventh Judicial District.
The new courtroom also will be the site of the final round of UB's 2001 Charles S. Desmond Moot Court Competition to be held Oct. 26.