The Circuit Court for Prince George's County Welcomes All - A Fair Forum for Justice
The Prince George’s County Courthouse in Upper Marlboro now includes a three-winged building housing the Circuit and District Courts, additional offices and conference rooms on the first floor of the County Administration Building across Main Street, and a Courthouse Annex adjacent to the County Administration Building on Governor Oden Bowie Drive. From a single judge in a single courtroom in Charles Town, the original Prince George’s County seat, the administration of justice in Prince George’s County now requires 23 Circuit Court judges, 15 District Court judges, and several retired judges recalled for service as needed by both courts.
The county seat, and the court, moved to the town of Marlborough (later, Upper Marlboro), in 1721, when the population of the new town surpassed that of Charles Town. Although extensive repairs were made in 1735, by 1801, that courthouse was replaced with a new courthouse—which became the foundation for the current Duval wing.
The 1801 courthouse was enlarged and improved with additions and renovations in 1820, 1840, and 1852. In 1881, a noted Baltimore architect created a Victorian façade and ornamentation and other additions to the courthouse. In 1895, two years after the town name changed to “Upper Marlboro,” the courthouse expanded to include an east and west wing, extending the front of the courthouse facing Main Street. In 1940, the courthouse was again remodeled and enlarged, replacing the Victorian façade with the classical portico and columns that face Main Street today.
Further additions in 1949, 1957, and 1969 extended the original courthouse to the current dimensions of the Duval wing. In 1971, the State of Maryland created the District Court, removing from the Circuit Court original jurisdiction in motor vehicle offenses, landlord-tenant actions, and some other matters, and providing an efficient court for the non-jury trial of some civil and criminal matters. The new District Court also needed a new courthouse in Upper Marlboro. For twenty years, the District Court rented various buildings in Upper Marlboro, with its only permanent home in a County building in Hyattsville.
Finally, in 1991, a State-County agreement created a new facility, connected by a breezeway to the original courthouse. The old courthouse was rededicated as the Duval wing, named for After 20 years in rented buildings, the District Court at court, now separated from the Circuit Court, established to handle non-jury civil and criminal trials, , also needed a home in Upper Marlboro. In 1991, a major addition created the Bourne wing, housing the District Court, and the Marbury wing, adding nine courtrooms for the Circuit Court.
In 2003, construction began on an extension of the Marbury wing, and renovation of the Duval wing. That renovation combusted on November 4, 2004, when temporary lighting in the attic ignited a 4-alarm fire. The following year, the Marbury expansion opened with nine additional courtrooms and expanded space for the Family Division and other administrative functions of the court. The Prince George’s Arts Council commissioned and installed artworks incorporating copper from the original roof of the Duval wing, lost in the fire.
Because the fire destroyed much of the interior of the Duval wing, the building required a complete renovation, integrating the components of 200 years of additions into a cohesive building. The renovated and rehabilitated Duval wing was dedicated in 2009. The copper cupola that formerly topped the Duval wing, but damaged beyond repair in the fire, now sits on the lawn in front of the Duval wing as a permanent artwork and reminder of the building’s lost history.
A courthouse built in the early 19th Century with one courtroom has grown over more than two centuries, as has the population it serves. With renovations to accommodate new technologies, and judges ready to serve a growing and changing population, the Prince George’s County Courthouse will continue to welcome all as a fair forum for justice, well into the 21st Century.
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