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Broward County, Fla.'s Sick Courthouse


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When Broward Circuit Judge Cheryl Aleman of the Family Court Bench died last month due to an aggressive form of lung cancer at the age of 52, attention quickly turned to her workplace, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.'s Broward County Courthouse, home of the Broward County 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida. Concerned that repeated flooding from rains may be causing dangerous molds to grow, Aleman's neighboring judges on the building's ninth floor have requested relocation. The courthouse's staff is also concerned about the potential for asbestos leaks. The building was constructed in the '50s and scheduled for replacement by 2014. The JAABlog is wondering if it's a "cancer cluster."

WSVN-TV reports that "Court Administrator Carol Ortman said she hopes these concerns do not spill over to more requests by judges for relocation." But Clerk of Courts Howard Foreman wants the community to know that his department takes the health worries very seriously, commenting to WSVN that "the judges are concerned, the clerk's office is concerned, and when the reports come back, we'll be very interested in taking a good look at them to see whether that area is inhabitable again or not."

The Sun-Sentinel writes that one of the relocated judges, Patti Englander Henning, said there were health issues for more than just Aleman -- and Broward County has now lauched further environmental tests. However, the newspaper says that these tests were not enough to stop lawyers from suing the county "on behalf of courthouse employees claiming exposure to toxic mold arranged for testing at the request of several judges." Attorney Bob McKee comments that "it's our perspective that this building should not be inhabited for work; it's making people sick." McKee has requested independent tests on the seventh, eighth and ninth floors, based on the concerns of six judges, including Englander Henning.

Each must have been dissatisfied with testing conducted after Aleman's passing, which found elevated levels of mold in the judge's former offices. A survey from 2009 also indicated that asbestos was a problem in the building, and just under half-a-dozen floods have struck the building in recent times. The question: Is this building even habitable until the new courthouse is constructed? The attorneys will also do their best to determine whether the tragic passing of Judge Aleman could have been prevented. Overall, quite a mess for Broward County.

Posted by Laurel Newby on January 12, 2011 at 03:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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