The Milwaukee County Courthouse might be getting a facelift.
In his budget proposal, County Executive Scott Walker recommended $3.7 million for bathroom renovation, security system upgrades and lighting and window updates.
But while structural improvements to the 78-year-old complex are needed, some attorneys suggest that technological modernizations may be more practical.
One improvement being discussed is wireless Internet service throughout the courthouse.
Although there is currently no provision for this in the county budget, Chief Judge Jeffrey A. Kremers said the court is “moving in that direction.”
First, the courthouse will update the wiring in its sound systems, and then explore the possibility of adding wireless capabilities.
Milwaukee Bar Association President Francis W. Deisinger said that better Internet access would make a “profound” difference for civil practitioners.
“The really big thing will be document management and making it easier to access files during a trial or proceedings,” said Deisinger, who is general counsel at Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC.
He said it is often “comical” to see attorneys hauling several boxes of papers into court.
Another benefit would be the ability to stay in constant communication with the office during a trial.
“If some emergency comes up … where a point we didn’t anticipate is made, we can have the office e-mail a brief we had prepared for another case,” said personal injury attorney Keith R. Stachowiak, who practices at Murphy & Prachthauser SC.
Alternatively, an attorney could log on to Westlaw or another legal search engine to quickly access research materials.
Wireless would also come in handy during the “down time” attorneys often endure at the courthouse, said Patrick J. Schoen.
He handles both small and large matters and said there can be an hour or two in between cases getting called.
“There is fair amount of lag time. If I’m able to work, that would be extremely helpful,” said Schoen, of Quarles & Brady LLP.
Clerk of Court John Barrett said some attorneys already come to court equipped with wireless, but offering it throughout the courthouse would give everyone the same benefits.
“Oftentimes, your silk stocking lawyers have the newest technology ahead of everyone else. I’m sure the meat and potatoes guys would like to have this as well,” he said.
To prevent jurors from accessing Internet content that could impact the outcome of a trial, Wi-Fi would ideally be offered to lawyers, judges and members of the gallery, but restricted for jurors who currently have wireless capabilities in the jury assembly area.
“I really don’t want jurors … going on CCAP to see if a guy has a criminal record while he’s testifying,” Schoen said.