New $78.7 Million East Kern County Courthouse Subjected to Evaluation on Friday

The most recent rendition of a five-year infrastructure blueprint — which incorporates a proposition to erect a novel $78.7 million East Kern County Courthouse somewhere within the regions of “Tehachapi or Mojave” — will undergo examination by the Judicial Council of California at their assembly in San Francisco on Friday.

Currently, Kern County Superior Court manages courthouses in both Ridgecrest and Mojave. As of 2021, the facilities in both areas were designated for replacement. A fresh Ridgecrest courthouse with two courtrooms was appraised at $42.2 million in June 2021, while a new Mojave courthouse with three courtrooms was projected to cost $56.8 million.

However, in June 2022, the Judicial Council granted the request from Kern County Superior Court to revise its proposition. Instead of erecting two new courthouses, they decided to consolidate eastern Kern County court operations into a single, modern four-courtroom courthouse to be constructed either in Mojave or Tehachapi.

In early June, Superior Court Presiding Judge J. Eric Bradshaw conducted meetings in Bakersfield, Mojave, and Ridgecrest, seeking public input on potential solutions for new courtroom space in East Kern.

Bradshaw, who assumed the role of presiding judge in January, discovered that the change had not been thoroughly reviewed by the court’s “justice partners,” including the sheriff, district attorney, public defender, and others. He faced a time constraint to include funding in the court’s latest five-year infrastructure plan.

Representatives from Kern County, the cities of Ridgecrest and Tehachapi, and members of the Rosamond and Mojave communities all participated in these public meetings, and the overwhelming consensus was to retain court operations in both Ridgecrest and Mojave. The city of Ridgecrest specifically requested the restoration of a new courthouse in their community in the infrastructure plan.

On June 9, Bradshaw stated that the court intends to continue operating the two existing courtrooms in Ridgecrest and replace the current courthouse in Mojave with a new three-courtroom facility to be constructed in the “Mojave/Tehachapi area.”

In a letter addressed to the Court Facilities Advisory Committee, he pointed out that “at a later point in time, we may ask your committee to consider restoring Ridgecrest to the statewide list of trial court capital projects, but we are not making that request now, and we do not link the east Kern projects.”

The Proposal

The Capital Outlay Budget Change Proposal for the New East County Courthouse, to be reviewed by the Judicial Council on Friday, advocates for the replacement and consolidation of three facilities in Mojave with a new three-courtroom courthouse spanning approximately 45,000 square feet, to be erected on a 3.6-acre site in either Tehachapi or Mojave.

If approved by the Judicial Council and included in the state budget for 2024-25, an allocation of over $4.9 million would be set aside for planning and land acquisition. As stated in the BCP, the acquisition process is scheduled to commence in July 2024 and conclude in 2026.

The subsequent stages, if funded, entail the following: performance criteria, $1.8 million, from July 2026 through June 2027; and design-build, $56.2 million, from July 2027 through July 2031.

In Mojave, the court presently operates within county-owned facilities. The Mojave Main Court Facility was constructed in 1974 and encompasses one courtroom. The Mojave County Administration Building, established in 1978, accommodates another courtroom. A modular building serves as a third courtroom.

These three facilities collectively amount to about 21,500 square feet, but the space is shared with the sheriff’s substation, justice partners, and county administrative offices. The infrastructure plan reveals that the court occupies roughly 7,500 square feet of that space.

“The three existing Mojave facilities… are inadequate for public service and the operational needs of the court,” according to the plan. “Square footage constraints have resulted in insufficient space for security screening and lobby waiting areas, a lack of jury assembly and jury deliberation space, overcrowding of public and staff areas, and no separate paths of circulation for in-custody defendants from the public and judges and staff. These deficiencies pose a safety and security risk to all facility users.”

As an example of the shortcomings in the current court facilities in Mojave, the plan cites the usage of the staff break room for jury deliberation in the administration building due to the absence of a dedicated jury deliberation space.

The proposed new three-courtroom courthouse would furnish multipurpose courtrooms suited for all case types, jury assembly, central holding, and self-help and family law services.

The new courthouse would encompass secure parking for judicial officers and surface parking spaces. It would offer “an accessible, safe, and efficient courthouse to serve most of the eastern county communities,” improve public access to justice, alleviate overcrowding, and enhance security. Furthermore, it would vacate three non-state-owned facilities, allowing the possibility of court-occupied space to be returned to the county.

County Courthouses

The county’s prior request for a new Ridgecrest courthouse remains visible on the newly proposed five-year infrastructure plan, but it is labeled as “withdrawn at the court’s request; court may make future request to restore.”

The New East Kern County Courthouse is listed among the projects throughout the state that the courts have deemed of “immediate need.”

Another “critical need” project is the new Bakersfield Superior Courthouse, although it is currently not in line for funding.

In addition to the existing facilities in Ridgecrest and Mojave, the Kern County Superior Court operates a variety of facilities in Bakersfield, Delano, Shafter, Taft, Lake Isabella, and Lamont.

Friday’s Meeting

The agenda for Friday’s meeting of the State Judicial Council can be accessed online at The meeting is scheduled to commence at 9:30 a.m., and it can be viewed live from a link at on the meeting date.

Claudia Elliott, a freelance journalist and former editor of the Tehachapi News, currently residing in Tehachapi, can be reached via email at [email protected].

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