Ribbon cutting celebrates new courtroom for Robins AFB

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office

The 78th Air Base Wing Staff Judge Advocate Office celebrated a long-awaited ribbon cutting for a new courtroom at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, Jan. 26, 2023.

The office is the legal arm of the installation, which provides litigation support for the command on issues of criminal law and military justice, acquisition, labor, environmental and civil law.

“We now have a truly functional courtroom, which brings honor to the judicial process,” said Col. Lisa Carroll, 78th ABW SJA. “When judges and attorneys walk in here, they are going to be blown away. Anyone entering the courtroom will feel the importance and the magnitude of what the place is supposed to represent. What happens inside a courtroom impacts lives, and it is important we have a facility that honors this serious process.”

Joining Carroll for the ceremony were Col. Lindsay Droz, Robins Installation and 78th Air Base Wing commander, and Lt. Gen. Stacey Hawkins, Air Force Sustainment Center commander.

“We take care of our Airmen and want to make sure they have their due process,” said Droz. “This room is the result of people seeing a need and stepping up to make it happen. That’s the kind of attitude we need, and that’s what we are celebrating.”

This occasion has been more than three decades in the making.

Carroll said over the years her predecessors faced budget constraints that forced them to prioritize other matters over upgrading a facility to adjudicate cases.

“I arrived at Robins in late June of last year,” said Carroll. “However, the need for a new courtroom has been desperately needed since the old courtroom was built in the 1980’s. It’s hard to convey the importance of trying a case when you have people sitting on folding chairs in the gallery.

“It’s my job to make sure the administration of justice happens, and the old court room brought so many challenges because of the lack of space,” she continued. “There are so many moving parts that must be considered when a trial is underway, such as making sure certain people are separated from each other. Imagine the awkwardness of the victim’s family having to intermingle with the defendant’s family because there was no way to separate them. I had to make sure members of the 78th Security Forces Squadron were present and on stand-by, because you never knew if emotions would escalate during an already tense situation.”

Carroll said the new courtroom provides ample space in the gallery where spectators can observe the proceeding away from the opposing side.

The SJA described the upcoming year as busy. There are currently 19 court-martial cases on the docket.

“What we have now puts my people in a place where they feel safer,” said Carroll. “I don’t want my attorneys and paralegals in the middle of what could be an explosive situation. We are also providing another level of safety for the judges. There is a customary private chamber that will provide judges with a separate entry and exit to the courtroom.

“Court is a formal process, and we want to honor it in every aspect,” Carroll continued. “We wear our service dress for court and a judge wears a robe. There should be decorum in all we do.”

Members of the 78th Civil Engineer Group were made honorary 78th ABW Judge Advocates for their work in transforming the room once filled with cubicles and turning it into a functional facility for judicial procedures.

They each received medallions with the JA official seal on the front and on the back a message of thanks, which read “In appreciation for your outstanding contribution to the 78 ABW/JA mission. Your work allows the 78 ABW to administer military justice in a world class courtroom and facility.”

According to Carroll, the work completed by CE saved the government more than $100,000 by not needing a private contractor to provide the labor.

Next month, the courtroom will be furnished, which includes the judge’s bench, the jury box, counselor’s sections and gallery benches.