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Gym turned into temporary courtroom

A former school gymnasium in Jim Thorpe was turned into a courtroom this week in Carbon County. Rooms in the courthouse are too small to maintain social distance.

JIM THORPE, Pa. — The pandemic forced a lot of people, places, and businesses to make changes and adjustments. That includes operations at the Carbon County Courthouse in Jim Thorpe.

"This is my courtroom we are standing in. We can't accommodate through social distancing a jury of 12 along with all the people that would have to be here," said Carbon County Judge Joe Matika.

The county's judicial system is trying to catch up on a backlog of cases created by the pandemic.

This courtroom was too small, and a bigger court was needed, so county officials decided to move operations to a basketball court inside the old Jim Thorpe School District administration building.

The gym was used as a temporary courtroom for jury trials this week.

Spaced-out chairs and plexiglass were used to keep people safe.

"It worked out fine. We had been working on that as a potential alternative to this courtroom for a number of months now. We were up there a couple of months ago and tried our first case up there, and then this past week I was up there, and we had another case that was tried up there," said Judge Matika.

It is possible that the makeshift courtroom will need to be put back together this summer.

However, county officials tell Newswatch 16 they like the idea of this building and are considering buying it.

The Jim Thorpe School District still owns the building; county departments are renting this space temporarily.

"It's good to have something this large to do anything with this. I mean, we can use this. In fact, we used it for elections. Election Night, everyone came in here and used it. We did get an appraisal for the place, and we are looking to buy this property," said Carbon County Commissioner Rocky Ahner.

The makeshift courtroom has been torn down for now in case space is needed for recreation.

The next jury trial is scheduled for August.